- - Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Players who have tasted the majors and then have to go back to the minors can go one of two ways: They can sulk, or vow to improve and get back to “The Show.”

Erick Fedde certainly chose the latter, and it showed with his spot start Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park. He allowed just five hits and a possibly-tainted three earned runs but was the hard-luck loser as the Nationals fell 3-1 to the last-place San Diego Padres.

“He is calm, poised. He knows how to compete,” said Nationals first baseman Matt Adams, whose solo homer accounted for Washington’s only run in the seventh inning.

It was a big change from last year, when Fedde was hammered for 25 hits — including five homers — in only 15.1 innings while posting an ERA of 9.39 in three starts for Washington.

“I felt comfortable. It was the start I was looking for, but not the finish,” said Fedde, who was pulled in the sixth inning. “I felt like today the game never got too quick for me. All of my stuff was working well today.”

Paul Menhart, the Nationals’ minor league pitching coordinator, said Fedde, 25, has a strong work ethic and didn’t blink when he failed to make the Opening Day roster of the Nationals.

“He has put himself in a nice spot to be in this position,” Menhart said in a telephone interview before Wednesday’s game. “He is working his tail off.”

Fedde made his first big league start of 2018 after eight games for Triple-A Syracuse this year.

“I think he started to realize that he needed more than his slider” as a secondary pitch, Menhart said. “He really worked hard on the changeup and added a curve to go with his slider and make him a four-pitch pitcher instead of a three-pitch pitcher. His body language and focus is top notch wherever he is.”

Despite the solid outing, manager Dave Martinez said Fedde will head back to Triple-A Syracuse so he can pitch every five days there.

“I liked what I saw,” Martinez said. “He wasn’t afraid of anybody tonight. He pounded the strike zone.”

San Diego starter Tyson Ross allowed just one run and pitched into the seventh inning. Padres reliever Craig Stammen, a former Nationals pitcher, took over in the seventh and got the last out of the frame.

Padres lefty Brad Hand got three outs in the ninth for the save. Anthony Rendon led off with a double and pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds singled, only to have rookie catcher Spencer Kieboom ground into a double play to end the game after Michael A. Taylor fanned for the first out.

The Padres took a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Manuel Margot, who is hitting .191.

San Diego made it 3-0 in the sixth when Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper could not catch a double hit to the warning track with two outs by Christian Villanueva. The play was originally ruled an error, but two runs scored and it ended the day for Fedde.

“That sun was tough,” Martinez said. “If he catches it, it’s a great play.”

Fedde went 52/3 innings and gave up just five hits and three earned runs, though it would have been just one earned run had Harper been charged with an error. Fedde threw 94 pitches and struck out six, one off his career best.

As he left the clubhouse, Fedde was stopped by Martinez, who was wearing a Capitals hockey jersey.

“Good job,” Martinez told Fedde.

The pitcher also got some compliments from Mark Scialabba, the director of player development for the Nationals.

“My changeup has been 10 times better than anything I could have hoped for. I am really happy with the off-speed pitches,” Fedde said.

NOTES: The Nationals (26-22), who have won 15 of their last 21 games, are off Thursday and begin a series Friday in Miami with Max Scherzer on the mound. … Washington will begin a three-game series Monday in Baltimore and Scherzer (7-1) is on track to start there next Wednesday.

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