SAN DIEGO -- Rookie left-hander Eric Lauer has given the Padres a lot to like during his first three months in the big leagues. One quality in particular should endear him to Padres fans: absolute dominance against the Dodgers.Lauer has been excellent since the start of June, but he's never
SAN DIEGO -- Rookie left-hander Eric Lauer has given the Padres a lot to like during his first three months in the big leagues. One quality in particular should endear him to Padres fans: absolute dominance against the Dodgers.
Lauer has been excellent since the start of June, but he's never been better than he was on Tuesday night at Petco Park. Only Player Page for Max Muncy's homer with two outs in the ninth prevented Lauer from becoming the first San Diego rookie to pitch a shutout since Clay Hensley 12 years ago.
Still, Lauer allowed only four hits and set career highs with 8 2/3 innings and eight strikeouts. His fastball consistently hit 95 mph, and his combination of three offspeed pitches was near untouchable. In 14 2/3 frames against Los Angeles this year, only Muncy has scored a run.
"It's the Dodgers, man, nobody likes the Dodgers," Lauer said with a wry grin. "You want to get them more than any other team."
Austin Hedges and William Myers supplied the offense with a homer apiece. That was plenty of support for Lauer, who has turned things around in a big way over his last eight starts. He entered June with a 7.67 ERA. In those eight starts since, it's 2.17.
"I've kinda let loose more than anything," Lauer said. "I made a couple mechanical tweaks with my front side, but really just trying to get back to how I used to throw and not trying to press."
Before Tuesday's start, Lauer had never pitched into the seventh inning. He worked out of a two-on, two-out jam in the seventh by blowing a fastball by John Forsythe. It seemed like a fitting cap on a career night.
And yet, before the eighth, Lauer practically skipped from the home dugout to the Petco Park mound. He retired the Dodgers 1-2-3 and got the first two outs in the ninth before Muncy took him deep.
That's when manager Andy Green finally emerged. After a brief conversation on the mound, Lauer's night was over. He exited to a standing ovation.
"I wanted it so bad," Lauer said of the shutout. "He came out and told me that, 'We're looking out for your future. You don't need this one out to potentially ruin that.' It was a smart move, and I appreciate that he's looking out for my future. But I still wanted it."
Shortly thereafter, Kirby Yates struck out Matt Kemp to end the game. But make no mistake, this was Lauer's night. His May struggles seem like they were an eternity ago.
"The more success you have at the big league level, the more you start to feel you belong here," Green said. "He's long past that. He knows he belongs."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Austin power: Lauer and Dodgers starter Rich Hill matched zeros for four innings. The Padres finally broke through against the lefty in the fifth. After two men reached base to start the frame, Hedges launched a booming three-run homer to the lowest level of the Western Metal Building in left field. The Padres' backstop appears to be turning a corner offensively, as he's 7-for-19 with a pair of homers this month.
"With how Lauer's pitching, you give him three runs there, that puts us in a good position to win the game," Hedges said.
Where there's a Wil: Three batters later, Myers joined the party. He launched a solo shot into the left-field seats, his sixth home run in the past four games. In the process, Myers became the first Padres hitter since Alex Dickerson in July 2016 to homer in four straight. The club record of six games, set by Graig Nettles in 1984, could be within reach.
• Myers launches 6th HR over 4-game streak
MARGOT STARS IN CENTER
Padres center fielder Manuel Margot has never been shy about expressing his desire to win a Gold Glove Award. He was Gold Glove-caliber on Tuesday night.
Margot made two highlight-reel catches late in the game to aid Lauer's complete-game bid. In the seventh, he ranged to his right on a Justin Turner liner and laid out for a diving grab. Margot covered 52 feet in just 3.5 seconds to do so, giving the play a catch probability of 37 percent according to Statcast™.
An inning later, Margot broke in on a sinking Chris Taylor liner and slid to make the grab. Lauer, as he walked off the mound, took off his hat and pointed it in Margot's direction.
"Manny was sensational," Green said. "He made some catches that gave [Lauer] a chance to almost get a complete-game shutout."
LAUER PICKS AND ROLLS
Lauer's pickoff move has become a legitimate weapon. He recorded his ninth of the season on Tuesday after Muncy walked to lead off the second inning.
Muncy's lead was only a couple of steps, but Lauer combined quickness with deception and nailed him at first base. The nine pickoffs are the most by a pitcher before the All-Star break since James Shields had 10 in 2011. They're the most in a season by a rookie since Lauer's teammate, Clayton Richard, had 11 in '09.
HE SAID IT
"He was beating us with the fastball and striking with the breaking ball when he needed to. Obviously, he's had our number." -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, on Lauer
Fellow rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi squares off with Dodgers righty Kenta Maeda in the third game of the four-game series at 7:10 PT Wednesday night. Lucchesi appears to be back to full strength after missing a month with a strained right hip. He owns a 1.26 ERA in his last three starts.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.