SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Padres' beleaguered bullpen lost Eric Lauer's lead. That was the least of the team's concerns after a lower back spasm forced Fernando Tatis Jr. from Tuesday's 7-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Petco Park.
The 20-year-old phenom was visited by team trainer Michael Salazar and Padres manager Andy Green after a sixth-inning swing. He appeared to be stretching out his hip area but remained in the game and struck out for the second time.
A half-inning later, Luis Urias slid over to shortstop and Greg Garcia entered to play second base.
Tatis missed roughly five weeks with a hamstring injury earlier this season but entered Tuesday in the top-10 in the National League in batting average (.315) and slugging (.591) and had been garnering support for his NL Rookie of the Year push with 22 homers and 16 steals.
Tatis had two hits in four at-bats, as well as two of the Padres' season-worst 18 strikeouts, before he left the game. The Padres led 4-3 after Lauer's exit after five innings but that did not last.
Craig Stammen's throwing error after giving up a leadoff double in the sixth tied the game and Ji-Man Choi's two-run homer in the seventh off Michel Baez opened up a 6-4 lead. Eric Sogard tacked on another run with a double. Lauer departed after five innings with a one-run lead but lead by as much as 4-1 after the first. He surrendered a one-out homer to Austin Meadows in the first frame, walked two batters while giving up a run in a 30-pitch second inning and allowed Guillermo Heredia's fifth-inning, leadoff double to score on Meadows' ensuing single.
Lauer struck out four and allowed three runs on six hits and two walks. He has completed six innings once in his last six trips to the mound.
Rays rookie left-hander Brendan McKay struggled with command from the start, walking the second, fourth and sixth hitters he faced. Eric Hosmer doubled in a run before that third walk loaded the bases for Urias, whose ensuing three-run double off the right field wall opened up a 4-1 lead.
McKay, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft -- when the Padres selected MacKenzie Gore third overall -- walked three batters through his first six big league starts. He walked another three after the first, but the Padres did not tack on any more runs before his exit after four innings.
Twice in that span, Tatis was thrown out on the bases -- first after a wide turn after his first-inning single and again in the third while trying to steal second base.
McKay helped his cause, too, with seven strikeouts. The Padres fanned 18 times in all -- tying a season-high -- against nine walks but scored one unearned run in five innings against Tampa Bay's bullpen, which began Tuesday with the game's third-best relief ERA (3.73).
The best chance to retake a lead slipped through their fingers in the eighth when pinch-hitter Josh Naylor, a left-handed hitter, struck out with runners on first and second against the left-handed Jose Alvarado and the right-handed Emilio Pagan fanned Wil Myers.
The right-handed-hitting Ian Kinsler had been on deck to face Alvarado when Green sent Naylor to the plate instead. Pagan struck out the side in the ninth.
Meanwhile, the Padres' 4.81 bullpen ERA, after giving up four runs -- three earned -- across the sixth and seventh innings, is the eighth-highest in the game.
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