SAN DIEGO (AP) — Matt Szczur doesn’t get many chances at the plate. So, he didn’t waste his opportunity with the game on the line Wednesday night.
Szczur hit a go-ahead RBI double in the seventh inning and San Diego’s bullpen pitched four scoreless innings to lift the Padres past the Washington Nationals 2-1.
Padres manager Andy Green penciled in Szczur against lefty starter Gio Gonzalez, and it paid off.
“Andy has faith in me and knows I will get the job done when he puts me in there,” said Szczur, who made his sixth start of the season and had only 37 at-bats coming in. “I always appreciate that. It’s good to get the job done, that’s for sure.”
With the game tied at 1, Manuel Margot opened the seventh with a single — his third hit of the game — and stole second before advancing to third on catcher Matt Wieters’ throwing error. Szczur doubled off reliever Trevor Gott (0-2) to the left-field fence to score Margot.
“I was just trying to get something good to hit,” said Szczur, who turned on a fastball. “I knew I had to get something in the air and I put a good swing on it.”
Kirby Yates pitched a perfect eighth, and Brad Hand got three outs after Ryan Zimmerman’s single for his 10th save.
“Our guys were great and they have been great all season,” Szczur said. “They come in and dominate for sure and it’s fun to play behind those guys.”
The Nationals, who had their three-game winning streak snapped, had the go-ahead run on in the seventh on Wieters’ leadoff double. But Craig Stammen (1-0) struck out Moises Sierra and Wilmer Difo before pinch-hitter Matt Adams lined out to third.
Neither starter figured into the decision, although both pitched well.
Gonzalez, who threw 24 pitches in the first inning, worked six innings for the Nationals, allowing one run, five hits and three walks. He struck out eight.
“I worked my pitch count up because I wasn’t being aggressive in the strike zone,” Gonzalez said. “Finally it worked.”
Joey Lucchesi, who entered with the top ERA (3.13) for rookie starters, pitched five-plus innings. He gave up a run and six hits with a walk and six strikeouts.
“He pitched well,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “Then, Stammen came in and pitched well. I tip my hat to them.”
Lucchesi exited after only 69 pitches when Michael Taylor singled and Trea Turner walked to start the sixth. Stammen entered and got Anthony Rendon to ground into a double play. After a walk, Howie Kendrick flied to right.
“When you have an opportunity to win a baseball game and you got someone that can get a double play ball and get out of tough inning, we are going to go that way,” Green said. “Craig has proved that over and over again.
“But I thought Joey was really good today and we’re looking for him to pitch for us for a long time. I felt good about what he did today and I can’t ask for much more from Joey.”
The Padres broke through in the fourth when A.J. Ellis and Margot hit consecutive doubles to tie it at 1.
Rendon hit his eighth homer in the fourth to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
PICK ON SOMEONE ELSE
Lucchesi’s nifty move to first base resulted in two Nationals being picked off as he erased Kendrick and Difo. It was the first time this season a pitcher has picked off two runners in a game.
Nationals: RF Bryce Harper got the day off to rest. … LHP Matt Grace (groin) suffered a setback in his minor-league rehab assignment after throwing for Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday. Grace won’t make his scheduled appearance on Thursday.
Padres: OF Hunter Renfroe (elbow) is hitting in extended spring training games, but hasn’t played defense. … C Austin Hedges (elbow) started a light throwing program. … OF Wil Myers (oblique) hasn’t resumed baseball activities.
Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (2-3) starts the first contest of a four-game series at Arizona. Roark, who has lost two of his last three starts, has split his four career decisions against the Diamondbacks.
Padres: RHP Jordan Lyles (0-0) makes his season debut as a starter. Lyles has limited opponents to a .194 (14 for 72) batting average in his 19.2 innings of relief.
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