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Strahm goes six strong, Renfroe HR tops Nats

Lefty K's career-high eight, goes toe-to-toe with Scherzer
April 26, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Not only did Padres right-hander Matt Strahm look every bit the part of a front-of-the-rotation starter, he went pitch-for-pitch with Nationals ace Max Scherzer. On a night when Scherzer carried a perfect game into the fifth and helped snap Fernando Tatis Jr.’s 12-game hit streak, Strahm performed as

WASHINGTON -- Not only did Padres right-hander Matt Strahm look every bit the part of a front-of-the-rotation starter, he went pitch-for-pitch with Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

On a night when Scherzer carried a perfect game into the fifth and helped snap Fernando Tatis Jr.’s 12-game hit streak, Strahm performed as every bit his equal, striking out a career-high eight batters over six innings in the Padres’ 4-3 victory Friday at Nationals Park.

“We needed everything out of him,” said Padres manager Andy Green. “If you’re going to stare down an ace and win a baseball game, you need somebody on the other side doing the same thing. He did every bit of that tonight.”

Strahm allowed his only two runs on Yan Gomes’ homer, and responded to that by retiring the last eight batters he faced before leaving the game after 81 pitches.

With San Diego keeping Strahm on a strict pitch limit -- his 61 1/3 innings mostly in relief last year are a career high -- the 27-year-old once again wouldn’t figure into the decision.

That all got sorted three innings later, on Hunter Renfroe's tie-breaking home run off Nationals closer Sean Doolittle in the top of the ninth.

But the evidence is building that Strahm, who won’t hit free agency until 2023, will finish plenty of good days with a ‘W’ next to his name for the Padres in the near future. And as he learns how to inhabit the starter’s role -- even when the other team’s guy looks unhittable -- he views his bullpen experience as an advantage.

“I’ve learned as a reliever, so that’s where I’ve just decided to keep the same mentality of, 'It’s just that batter,'” Strahm said. “If it happens to be 18-25 batters that day, it’s 18-25 batters. But every batter I face, it’s as if I’m out of the bullpen. I’m going to come at you. I’m going to get you now.”

Aside from Gomes ambushing him on a first-pitch fastball to give Washington a 2-0 lead in the fourth, the righty encountered trouble only twice.

With runners on the corners in the first, he induced Juan Soto into an inning-ending double play. Two frames later, Victor Robles got to third on Eric Hosmer’s three-base catching error, but was stranded there when Strahm got Anthony Rendon to pop out to right.

Still trailing 2-1 when he departed, he was officially off the hook in the top of the seventh when Manny Machado singled in Wil Myers from second. It was only fair after the end of a four-game stretch in which he’s pitched to a 1.50 ERA.

How Hosmer homered

Hosmer ruined Scherzer’s no-hit bid in the top of the 5th, when he turned on an 0-2 fastball and belted a solo home run into the seats in right-center to cut the Padres’ deficit in half.

Hosmer added a seventh-inning single -- that would’ve been a double down the line in most other parks -- in what was his 40th career at-bat against the three-time Cy Young Award winner, the most of any Padres batter.

Hosmer is still batting just .221 in his second season for San Diego. But he’s now .250 against the power-throwing righty with four RBIs, a track record that suggests he knows how to hold is own against one of the game’s best.

“When you face a guy like him, you have like little pitch windows,” Hosmer explained, “where there’s like a two- or three-pitch window where you’ve got a chance to do some damage off of him. If you miss those pitches or foul those pitches, it’s going to be a tough night for you.”

Hunter takes his shot

Renfroe is also off to a slow start from an average standpoint, but after entering as a defensive substitution for Franmil Reyes in the eighth inning as a defensive substitution, he connected for his fifth homer of the year in just 63 at-bats.

“He can stand up there and take a great swing at any point in time,” Green said. “That was huge for us.”