Eric Lauer a bright spot for Padres in disappointing loss

SAN DIEGO– It has been no secret that the Padres have been wanting more consistency from Eric Lauer. They have been willing to be patient with him, too. After all, it has only been a little more than two years since they drafted him with the 25th pick in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft. To expect him to showcase all that he is (and can be) right away was likely far too much of an ask.

The rookie seems to be finding his way, though. His last four starts have shown that he may very well be on his way towards finding some consistency at the big league level.

Lauer’s latest showing came on Tuesday night in an inter-league matchup with the Athletics. Facing a lineup with only one left-handed hitter, the rookie put forth arguably the best outing of his short big league career. Lauer allowed only three hits and one run (none earned) in six strong innings of work. He walked two (one intentional) and tied a career-high in strikeouts, with seven.

The Ohio native averaged 92 mph on his fastball, per Statcast. That is his highest average fastball velocity to date. The heater was effective, too, as he induced seven swinging strikes using that pitch. He also touched 95 on a couple of occasions throughout his outing.

The uptick in his fastball velocity has certainly been a factor in his recent success:

“You’ve seen better carry on the fastball, more life to it,” stated manager Andy Green prior to Tuesday’s game. “Which is typical as the summer progresses, when you start to get to June and July, you start to see most guys’ fastball velo uptick a bit. He’s had more life to his fastball, which I think has made his secondary (pitches) play a little better.”

For the first time in six starts, the rookie did not record a pickoff. His five games in a row with a pickoff tied him for the second-longest streak in major league history, only behind Andy Pettitte (8).

Lauer has now thrown five or more innings in four consecutive starts. His ERA in that stretch is a solid 2.49 (21.2 IP), and he now owns a solid 8.29 K/9 mark in his first 11 starts.

“It’s more of the vintage Eric Lauer who we always knew he was through his minor league career,” said Green after the game. “Sometimes it takes a while to get your feet under you at the big league level.”

He was in line for his third win in four starts, but the ever-so-reliable Padres bullpen faltered late. Brad Hand allowed a game-tying home run to A’s right-fielder Stephen Piscotty in the 9th, and Jed Lowrie hit a two-run shot off of submariner Adam Cimber in the 10th to help Oakland steal the victory.

In what was a difficult loss, though, Eric Lauer was certainly a bright spot for San Diego.