Jeremy Hellickson (5 1⁄3 IP) and Eric Lauer (6 IP) gave up one run each in the second game of three between the Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres tonight in D.C., and the bullpens kept it tied at 1-1 through eight and a half before Juan Soto walked (for the third time in four plate appearances) and scored on a walk-off double by Michael A. Taylor.
Hellboy vs the Padres: San Diego Padres’ skipper Andy Green pointed to the curve Jeremy Hellickson was throwing in Petco Park as the big weapon the righty had over 6 2⁄3 scoreless innings in which he flirted with perfection before finally giving up two hits in the home-half of the seventh.
Hellickson threw 26 total curveballs that night, 16 for strikes, and got 14 swings, and nine misses with the pitch.
“When he’s on he has a plus-plus breaking ball,” Green told reporters, as quoted by the San Diego Tribune’s Jeff Sanders after what ended up a 4-0 loss to the Nats. “He had that today.
“I’ve seen him throw some really good baseball games. I thought he threw the ball well today. The breaking ball was real.”
Opposing hitters had a .188 AVG against Hellickson’s curve heading into tonight’s game vs the Padres the nation’s capital, and he’s thrown it 24.4% of the time so far this season, 50%-ish more than he threw in 2017 (12.6%) and up over a career average of 14.9%.
Hellickson’s curve got him out of an early jam tonight, with back-to-back Ks on the bender after a one-out walk and single in the Padres’ first. Two of three outs in a quick, eight-pitch second came on the curve as well, and all three (on some hard-hit balls) in the third came via the curve as well.
Franchy Cordero crushed a 2-1 slider in the first at bat of the fourth though, sending a no-doubter out to right field to put the Padres up, 1-0. Cordero’s 7th.
It was back to the breaking ball in the fifth, however, as he got a groundout and picked up a strikeout with the curve, and completed a quick, 12-pitch frame that left him at 64 pitches in five innings.
Jose Pirela smoked a 3-2 curve in the sixth, lining a one-out double to left, and Hellickson left the game one pitch into the next at bat after calling the trainer out to have a look at a blister on/issue with his right middle finger...
Jeremy Hellickson’s Line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 75 P, 46 S, 7/0 GO/FO.
Lauer vs Washinton: After throwing six scoreless against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a May 6th start, Padres’ lefty Eric Lauer struggled in his next two outings, giving up 13 hits, four of them home runs, four walks, and 10 runs, all earned, over seven innings on the mound for a 12.86 ERA, with opposing hitters putting up a rough .433/.486/.900 line against the lefty in those outings.
Three of the home runs Lauer allowed over that stretch came in one inning in his last start before tonight, making him the first Padres’ starter to give up three in one frame since Ben Howard all the way back on September 14, 2003.
Lauer worked around a walk and kept the Nationals hitless through 2 2⁄3 innings before he gave up back-to-back, two-out singles by Trea Turner and Bryce Harper, but he stranded both, then worked around two runners in the fourth, striking out Wilmer Difo and Michael A. Taylor in back-to-back ABs after giving up a leadoff single and a one-out walk.
Bryce Harper got all of a first-pitch cutter in the bottom of the fifth, however, and Harper’s 15th of 2018 tied it up at 1-1.
Watch Bryce Harper retake the NL lead in homers. pic.twitter.com/497OtOaWDL— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 23, 2018
Lauer came back out for the sixth, and worked around leadoff and one-out singles to keep it tied at 1-1.
Eric Lauer’s Line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 1 HR, 99 P, 67 S, 2/5 GO/FO.
Reynolds’ Story: In six games with the Nationals, veteran slugger Mark Reynolds, who was sitting at home waiting for a major league offer to come in before he took a minor league deal with Washington in mid-April, has gone 8 for 18 (.444 AVG) with a double, four home runs, six RBIs, two walks, and six runs scored.
“If you watched him over the last few years,” Davey Martinez told reporters after Reynolds homered twice in last night’s series opener with the Padres, “he’s had unbelievable years over the last few years, his batting average, his on-base percentage, his home runs, driving in runs, everything, so I’m really happy that we were able to sign him and get him here.
Reynolds singled to left on a 90 mph fastball up in the zone in the fourth, after grounding out the first time up, but was stranded as Padres’ lefty Eric Lauer completed four scoreless.
Padres’ third baseman Cory Spangenberg dove to get a hard-hit grounder to the left side in Reynolds’ third trip to the plate, but the infielder lost the ball on the exchange. It was ruled a single. 2 for 3. Reynolds K’d swinging with a runner on in the eighth. 2 for 4.
Soto Gets Nothing: Juan Soto saw eight pitches in his first two at bats against Padres’ lefty Eric Lauer, all of them balls, and he took his walks in each at bat. He was picked off of first after walking in the second (on a pickoff move that looked balk-y), and stranded after walk No. 2 in the fourth.
Soto got two straight pitches in the zone the third time up, and hit an 0-1 fastball to right for a two-out single. 1 for 1, 2 BB. He walked on four pitches again in the first at bat of the ninth, getting on base to start the inning with the score still tied at 1-1...
BULLPEN ACTION: Jeremy Hellickson left the mound rather abruptly, with an issue (blister?) on his right middle finger, so Wander Suero took over against Franchy Cordero with Jose Pirela on second after a one-out double in the Padres’ sixth. Suero got Cordero swinging on a wicked full-count cutter inside, but Franmil Reyes lined a 2-1 cutter to center for what was ruled an RBI single at first, but a close play at the plate on a strong throw in by Michael A. Taylor was reversed upon review and ruled out No. 3. Still 1-1.
Probably shouldn't run on MAT. pic.twitter.com/UsONScvQUu— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 23, 2018
Suero came back out for the top of the seventh inning, and retired the side in order in a 12-pitch frame to keep it a tie game, 1-1.
Former Nats’ reliever Craig Stammen retired the Nationals in order in a nine-pitch bottom of the seventh.
Brandon Kintzler gave up a one-out single by Travis Jankowski in the top of the eighth, but Pedro Severino throw him out in the next at bat when the Padres’ outfielder tried to swipe second. Kintzler completed a scoreless 10-pitch inning to keep it tied.
Kirby Yates threw a scoreless bottom of the eighth, and Sean Doolittle needed 13 pitches to strike out the side a scoreless ninth. Still 1-1.
Padres’ lefty Matt Strahm walked Juan Soto on four pitches to start the Nationals’ half of the ninth, and one out later, he scored on a walk-off double by Michael A. Taylor.
Final Score: 2-1 Nationals
Nationals now 26-21