"Tonight was a function of three rookie pitchers not commanding their fastball," said Padres manager Bud Black. "If you don't do that, Major League hitters are going to make you pay."
Actually, Padres' pitcher Robbie Erlin isn't a rookie, though he's low on service time. The lesson, though, remains the same.
The Nationals got seven scoreless innings from Stephen Strasburg (2-2), with 11 strikeouts to boot, and Bryce Harper knocked in four runs as in a runaway victory over the Padres (11-13).
Strasburg allowed seven hits while overpowering the Padres for most of the night. He had two walks and seldom found himself in any real danger.
A night after going 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position in a loss, the Nationals were 7-for-17 in a big victory in the second game of a four-game series.
Harper had a run-scoring single in the first inning and then lined a three-run triple to the wall in right-center field in the third inning. He later left the game after jamming his left thumb.
The Nationals (13-11) also got a big game from Anthony Rendon, who had a career-high four hits with two RBIs and a stolen base.
"We try to give ourselves opportunities as we can," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "I think Anthony and [Ian Desmond] definitely set the tone tonight, taking the ball the other way against the left-hander. Staying on it. That sets the tone for your team. They both did a nice job of that."
Erlin (1-3) struggled early, allowing two runs in the first inning and then four more in the third. All told, he allowed eight runs on 13 hits over 5 1/3 innings with two walks and three strikeouts.
"Everything was elevated and I was also working behind in the count," Erlin said. "But the biggest thing was not being able to get the ball down."
The Padres, who have leaned heavily on their bullpen this season -- in particular the last three games -- got some rest Friday, even if Erlin had to stick around longer than he might normally have.
"It all starts with the fastball," Black said. "That's the pitch you're going to throw the most. He just didn't throw enough good, quality strikes."
It certainly wasn't for lack of effort, though.
Trailing, 2-0, in the third inning and with the bases full, Erlin ran the count full on Harper during the at-bat that led to the three-run triple. Erlin shook off catcher Nick Hundley, opting to try and throw a fastball down and away.
"I threw it with full conviction, but it was right down the middle," Erlin said. "At that point, it was 5-0 and that was pretty much it."
The Padres (11-13) got three hits from leadoff hitter Everth Cabrera but little else in the way of offense until the eighth inning, when they had three hits -- including an RBI single by Hundley that ended the Nationals' shutout bid.
For as good as Strasburg was, the Padres had at least one chance to cut into Washington's early 2-0 lead.
San Diego loaded the bases with two outs in the third, but Strasburg got Yonder Alonso to pop up to left field to end the inning.
Infielder Jace Peterson and reliever Kevin Quackenbush, added to the 25-man roster earlier in the day, made their big league debuts as part of a double-switch in the sixth inning.
Peterson had a hit on the first pitch he saw in the seventh inning, and Quackenbush allowed two runs on two hits in 1 2/3 innings, with one walk and one strikeout.
Fellow rookie reliever Donn Roach allowed one earned run in the eighth inning.
"It was good, the guys in here made it very easy for me. It felt like Spring Training," said Peterson, who was promoted earlier in the day from Double-A San Antonio. "I was looking for a fastball to hit, and it happened to be on the first pitch."
The series continues at 10:05 a.m. PT on Saturday.