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Margot provides spark as Padres solve Nats

Lucchesi's strong start backed by impressive bullpen showing
MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres strongly believe in Manuel Margot as their leadoff man of the future, a multifaceted table-setter who can impact games with his bat and with his wheels.

In the present, however, Margot finds himself at the bottom of the San Diego order, where the club feels he's best suited to break out of his season-long sophomore slump. The 23-year-old speedster showed signs of doing just that Wednesday night.

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SAN DIEGO -- The Padres strongly believe in Manuel Margot as their leadoff man of the future, a multifaceted table-setter who can impact games with his bat and with his wheels.

In the present, however, Margot finds himself at the bottom of the San Diego order, where the club feels he's best suited to break out of his season-long sophomore slump. The 23-year-old speedster showed signs of doing just that Wednesday night.

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Margot notched a season-high three hits in the Padres' 2-1 victory over the Nationals at Petco Park. He doubled home the tying run in the fourth inning, then created the winning run in the seventh.

Video: WSH@SD: Margot rips an RBI double to left in the 4th

"It feels good to see that the work I'm putting in is coming to fruition and finally showing itself," Margot said. "The only thing I can do is keep working, staying with the same process to make sure the results keep showing up."

Margot swatted a single into center field to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Two pitches later, he swiped second base and made it to third on a throwing error by Nationals catcher Matt Wieters. Matt Szczur plated Margot with a double later in the frame, and the Padres bullpen had a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

Video: WSH@SD: Szczur and Margot talk about timely hitting

Margot entered the series with one hit in 16 May at-bats, but he went 5-for-10 with a pair of extra-base hits against the Nationals. A year ago, Margot put forth a rookie campaign in which he never fell into a prolonged drought. This past month marked his first legitimate Major League slump.

"He's been putting a lot of work in," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He's a tremendous kid. He puts everything he's got into the game. It's good seeing some of that work starting to pay off and seeing him turn a corner a little bit."

Starter Joey Lucchesi continued his excellent rookie campaign with five-plus innings of one-run ball. He allowed only a homer to Anthony Rendon in the top of the fourth, while striking out six.

Video: WSH@SD: Rendon hammers a solo homer to left-center

Rendon's next trip to the plate spelled the end of Lucchesi's night, even though the rookie left-hander was sitting on just 69 pitches. Lucchesi allowed the first two men to reach base in the sixth, and with Rendon due up, Green called for right-hander Craig Stammen.

"I can't really argue with the coach," Lucchesi said. "If that's what he wants, it's fine. I didn't want to come out. I wanted to keep competing."

Video: WSH@SD: Green discusses his team's close 2-1 victory

Green is just fine with that mindset.

"If I ever go take a baseball from a guy and they're happy about coming out of the game, we have a problem," Green said. "If I take a baseball from a guy and he wants to continue to pitch, we have a competitor. That's a good thing."

Stammen promptly induced a double play and an inning-ending popup. Kirby Yates and Brad Hand followed with more scoreless relief, as the Padres avoided being swept by the Nationals for the first time at Petco Park.

Video: WSH@SD: Hand K's Sierra to lock down his 10th save

"We had a very fresh bullpen," Green said. "We had three guys we really trust in Stammen, Yates and Hand. … Craig has proved over and over again that it's wise to have faith in him."

Video: WSH@SD: Stammen induces clutch 6-4-3 double play

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Slick picks: Lucchesi owns one of the sport's best pickoff moves, and he put it on full display Wednesday night. In the fourth, he caught Howie Kendrick off first base, then he nabbed Wilmer Difo an inning later. It's early, but Lucchesi's three pickoffs lead the Majors, and his two-pick game was the first in MLB this season.

Video: WSH@SD: Lucchesi picks off Kendrick and Difo

Great Yates: Trailing by one in the eighth, the Nationals sent the top of their order to the plate against Yates. He quickly set them down in order, including strikeouts of Trea Turner and Rendon. They were Yates' 100th and 101st K's for the Padres -- and he's reached that mark in only 67 innings.

HE SAID IT
"There were a lot of times where I was going up to the plate with things in my head, thinking about things. If you're doing that, that doesn't really let you be who you need to be. I do think I'm getting back to just being myself." -- Margot

UP NEXT
Jordan Lyles' strong showing in the bullpen has earned him admittance into the Padres' starting rotation, after a struggling Bryan Mitchell was moved to a relief role. Lyles, whose hard curveball has come to life in the 'pen, will start Thursday against the Cardinals at 7:10 p.m. PT. He'll be limited innings-wise, having maxed out at 45 pitches this season. Meanwhile, former Padre Miles Mikolas gets the start for St. Louis.

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

San Diego Padres, Joey Lucchesi, Manuel Margot