San Diego Padres: Eric Lauer Tames Nationals for Six Innings

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 22: Eric Lauer #46 of the San Diego Padres pitches in the first inning during a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Nationals Park on May 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 22: Eric Lauer #46 of the San Diego Padres pitches in the first inning during a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Nationals Park on May 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Even though the victory escaped the San Diego Padres, Eric Lauer put forth a gutsy performance against an emaciated but still very dangerous Nationals lineup.

Having been swept by the Dodgers over the weekend, the Nationals came out looking for blood in the series opener on Monday in Washington and succeeded in their quest, beating the San Diego Padres 10-2.

Last night, the Padres’ rookie left-hander, Eric Lauer, held the Nats at bay, mostly, through six impressive innings and looked more comfortable than we’ve seen him since making his debut on April 24 in Colorado.

Coming into the game, the 22-year-old lefty had an earned-run average of 8.14 but was showing promise. After earning his first MLB win on May 11 in Monterrey, Lauer was hit pretty hard in his next outing versus St. Louis (2.1 IP, 7 H, 6 ER).

Lauer made it through four clean innings of work before cracking in his last outing in Pittsburgh so, naturally, he had to be hoping for a strong showing last night against a very tough and clearly ticked-off Washington team who didn’t start the year off in the way that they had hoped.

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Lauer shines for the San Diego Padres

Eric Lauer worked around a one-out error by Franchy Cordero in the first that allowed Bryce Harper to reach base by striking out Anthony Rendon and inducing a ground ball from Mark Reynolds.

Lauer struck out Pedro Severino on a 91.5 MPH four-seamer on the outside part of the plate to start things off in the bottom half of the second inning.

He walked Juan Soto but then picked him off after two previous unsuccessful attempts to do so, and then got Wilmer Difo to pop out to end another clean frame.

After setting down the first two Nats to come to the plate in the third inning (struck out Michael A. Taylor and got Jeremy Hellickson to pop out), he allowed back-to-back singles to Trea Turner and Bryce Harper before striking out Rendon for the second time. Very impressive stuff, young man.

Lauer keeps rolling along

Franchy Cordero led off the top of the fourth with a blast to right center field to bring home the game’s first run, and Lauer had his first lead of the night to protect.

Eric Lauer allowed a leadoff single to Mark Reynolds in the fourth, then got Severino to pop out. He walked Soto, bringing Darren Balsley out to talk to the rookie southpaw. Clearly, whatever he said worked because Lauer struck out Difo and Taylor to escape yet another jam.

Lauer was cruising in the fifth after retiring Hellickson and Turner to begin the inning, but left a beach ball right in Bryce Harper’s wheelhouse and watched that thing go a very long way to tie that game at one. Lauer then set down Rendon for the third time to end the frame.

Reynolds led off the bottom of the sixth with another base hit, bringing Balsley out again as the Padres’ bullpen began to stir. Lauer got Severino to ground into a 5-4-3 double play, allowed a Soto single, but struck out Difo to end the inning and his night.

Takeaways from Lauer’s performance

Even though the San Diego Padres lost the game on Taylor’s walk-off hit in the ninth, Eric Lauer’s performance was full of positive moments for the young lefty to build off of moving forward.

It’s become pretty clear that Lauer has found himself a place in the San Diego Padres’ rotation for the foreseeable future. Starts like the one he had last night will only solidify that position even more so for him moving forward.

He obviously doesn’t need to blow hitters away with overpowering fastballs. His location, which is pretty darn good already, only figures to get better. It’s actually really fun to imagine where this Friars’ pitching staff will be by the end of the season, no less in a couple of years.

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Working his way out of trouble against the Pirates, as competitive as they may be, is not the equivalent of doing it against the Washington Nationals. Lauer’s gutsy showing last night should go a long way in building this promising young hurler’s confidence up.