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Lyles helping Padres rotation fall into place

MLB.com @AJCassavell

PITTSBURGH -- The last two pitches that Jordan Lyles threw on Sunday afternoon landed in the seats at PNC Park. Otherwise, he put forth a worthwhile encore to his perfect-game bid.

Lyles cruised for 5 2/3 innings, before he surrendered a two-run shot and a solo shot on his 92nd and 93rd pitches. Overall, he allowed four runs on seven hits while striking out four in the Padres' 8-5 victory over the Pirates on Sunday afternoon.

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PITTSBURGH -- The last two pitches that Jordan Lyles threw on Sunday afternoon landed in the seats at PNC Park. Otherwise, he put forth a worthwhile encore to his perfect-game bid.

Lyles cruised for 5 2/3 innings, before he surrendered a two-run shot and a solo shot on his 92nd and 93rd pitches. Overall, he allowed four runs on seven hits while striking out four in the Padres' 8-5 victory over the Pirates on Sunday afternoon.

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"Two swings changed the way his line looks," said Padres manager Andy Green. "But that doesn't change the way he threw the ball today. He did a lot of good things."

It also doesn't change the fact that -- perhaps for the first time this season -- the pieces in the San Diego rotation are falling into place. Lyles is the biggest reason why.

Video: SD@PIT: Ellis scores on Lyles' suicide squeeze

The Padres received a rock-solid effort from Tyson Ross in Friday's victory and a gem from Clayton Richard on Saturday. Ross has been the anchor all season. Richard has bounced back from his rough April with three straight starts in which he pitched into the eighth.

Lyles, meanwhile, began the season in the bullpen. After struggles from Bryan Mitchell and Luis Perdomo, he's the one bringing a measure of stability to the rotation. In three starts, Lyles has a 2.50 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning.

"Overall, we've been pretty efficient," Lyles said. "Mentality-wise, we've done a pretty good job of being aggressive, attacking the zone. I'm looking forward to my next outing and keeping it going."

On Sunday, Lyles was cruising, and then suddenly he wasn't. Perhaps the workload heaped upon a newly minted starter was too much.

With two outs and the bases empty in the sixth, the Padres led, 4-1. Lyles, who retired the first 22 Rockies he faced on Tuesday in San Diego, walked Colin Moran. The Padres bullpen stirred at the first sign of trouble.

Then, Lyles hung a curveball to rookie Austin Meadows, who parked it in the left-center field bleachers for his first Major League home run. The attention shifted to the San Diego dugout. If Green wished to turn to his 'pen, he could have. Instead, the Padres skipper clapped his hands emphatically, imploring Lyles to attack one more batter. Lyles grooved a first-pitch fastball, and Jordy Mercer crushed it. Tie game.

Video: SD@PIT: Mercer drills a game-tying solo HR to left

"We threw it a little bit better than that final line," Lyles said. "Just ran into a buzzsaw in the sixth."

Right now, the missing rotation piece is Joey Lucchesi, who is likely looking at early June for his return from a right-hip strain. The rookie left-hander owns a 3.23 ERA through nine starts.

But for the first time this year, the Padres feel good about a three-fifths majority of their rotation. If Lucchesi returns to form, they'll have four places locked down.

The last spot currently belongs to rookie Eric Lauer, and the club certainly wouldn't mind asking him to withstand some healthy competition to maintain his place.

The worthy rotation candidates tend to meet the challenge. Lyles has.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Jordan Lyles