SAN DIEGO -- On the eve of his 23rd birthday, Eric Lauer was sharp for five innings. The rookie left-hander worked crisply and effectively Saturday night, allowing one run on five hits, while striking out four in the Padres' 8-2 victory over the Reds at Petco Park.This was the version
SAN DIEGO -- On the eve of his 23rd birthday, Eric Lauer was sharp for five innings. The rookie left-hander worked crisply and effectively Saturday night, allowing one run on five hits, while striking out four in the Padres' 8-2 victory over the Reds at Petco Park.
This was the version of Eric Lauer the Padres had been searching for. This was the version of Eric Lauer they need to see more consistently.
"It's something to build off of for me, more than anything," Lauer said. "I definitely want to go longer into games. But being able to show that I can get through five and get through tough situations … it's just something to build off of."
Lauer has shown flashes of his potential this season. Too often, that potential has been masked by his struggles. It's understandable. Lauer was just the second pitcher from the 2016 Draft to arrive in the big leagues, and he's seen his share of growing pains.
On Saturday, Lauer reminded the Padres why he's worth a look. He spotted his low-90s fastball perfectly and saw an uptick in its velocity from the past few starts. His breaking pitches kept Reds hitters off balance, too.
"It's great for his confidence," Padres manager Andy Green said. "I think now we want to stack a good one on top of a good one. That'll be the next challenge."
Lauer allowed only a game-tying solo homer to Reds catcher Curt Casali in the top of the second. The Padres' answer was swift. They scored four runs in the bottom of the frame off Reds starter Matt Harvey.
Manuel Margot's bases-loaded double put the Friars back on top. Travis Jankowski tacked on an RBI single later in the frame, and the Padres led, 5-1. Jankowski played a role in all three Padres run-scoring rallies, sparking two and putting the finishing touches on the one in the second.
"He's on base repetitively for us," Green said. "... Travis is playing really, really well. There's not much else you can ask of him."
That was plenty of support for Lauer and an equally effective bullpen. Adam Cimber, Craig Stammen and Jose Castillo worked scoreless frames. Castillo, recalled from Triple-A El Paso earlier in the day, put forth an all-time great big league debut.
Pitching the eighth inning, the 22-year-old rookie struck out Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall in order. He became just the third Padre in history to strike out each of the first three hitters he faced, joining Jeremy Fikac (2001) and Tommy Layne (2012).
After an encouraging night for one young Padres left-hander, Castillo doubled the sense of optimism.
"That was cool, wasn't it?" Lauer said of Castillo's debut. "That was awesome. It's cool to be a part of it, because I've seen it first-hand. I've been with a ton of these guys that are coming up. I was one of those guys. You just hope to see these guys stick and hope to have a culture change where we help turn this club around."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mar-going the other way: Margot has been mired in something of a season-long funk at the plate. After a standout rookie campaign, he entered Saturday's game hitting .206. But with two hits Saturday, Margot is batting .333 (9-for-27) over his last nine games. His opposite-field double plated two in the second. He tacked on a single through the right side in the sixth.
Singles night: The Padres put the game on ice with a three-run seventh in which the first five batters all reached base via singles. Jankowski led off with a hit, then swiped second and scored when an Eric Hosmer bouncer snuck past Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett. Three batters later, Matthew Szczur's bases-loaded single plated two runs and gave the Padres an 8-1 lead.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Lauer's pickoff move is becoming a bona fide weapon. With two outs in the third, Lauer allowed a single to Votto. Three pitches later, he caught Votto straying from first base. It was Lauer's fifth pickoff this season, tying him with Atlanta's Julio Teheran for the most in the Majors. The Padres' 11 pickoffs are the most by a team.
HE SAID IT
"I gave him a really easy batter for the first one he faced. That guy's as good as they come. It's fun in and of itself for your first strikeout to be Joey Votto. There's probably not too many pitchers who can actually say that." -- Green, on Castillo
Tyson Ross has been the anchor of the Padres rotation, and he's coming off a start in which he threw only 87 pitches in a Padres victory over Miami. He gets the ball Sunday against the Reds with first pitch slated for 3:10 p.m. PT. Luis Castillo starts for Cincinnati.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.