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Lucchesi delivers as Padres blank Brewers

@AJCassavell
June 18, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- For seven innings, they perched themselves on the bench that overlooks the left-center-field wall at Petco Park. Occasionally, the group of Padres relievers stirred. But only to stand, stretch and sit right back down. It wasn’t until there was one out in the seventh that any of

SAN DIEGO -- For seven innings, they perched themselves on the bench that overlooks the left-center-field wall at Petco Park. Occasionally, the group of Padres relievers stirred. But only to stand, stretch and sit right back down.

It wasn’t until there was one out in the seventh that any of those pitchers even removed his jacket. They weren’t going anywhere, after all. Joey Lucchesi was too darn good.

Box score

And the Padres needed it in the worst way.

Over the weekend, San Diego called on its relief corps to eat 25 1/3 innings in a bonkers four-game series at Coors Field that shattered all sorts of offensive records. Lucchesi’s job Monday night: Ease the burden on a beaten down pitching staff.

“He understood what he needed to do,” said Padres manager Andy Green. “And he was able to deliver.”

Lucchesi couldn’t have done it much better. He was brilliant over seven shutout frames, as the Padres returned home with a 2-0 victory over the Brewers on Monday night. He struck out five and allowed only three hits, lowering his ERA to 3.74.

Lately, Lucchesi has begun to hammer home the notion that he’s a long-term piece in the Padres’ rotation plans. That’s mostly a credit to his development as a pitcher and as a player. He added a cutter. He changed his workout routine.

“My hard work’s paying off,” Lucchesi would later say.

“The intent is just better,” added pitching coach Darren Balsley. “He knows what makes him pitch well. He knows the Major League game, Major League hitters. He's just developed more confidence. A lot of it is credit to the hard work he put in during the offseason and now every day during the season.”

The Padres gave Lucchesi an early cushion when Eric Hosmer scored on a wild pitch in the first. Hosmer had advanced to third base on Manny Machado’s pinball double, which ricocheted off Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin, then second base ump Chris Segal.

Two innings later, Machado sent a rocket to right-center field for his fourth homer in five games. After a relatively slow start offensively, clearly the Padres $300 million man is heating up.

“He's swinging it well,” Green said.

After that, the Padres couldn’t muster a whole lot offensively, squandering multiple opportunities and sending two fly balls to the wall. Austin Hedges even had a homer robbed by Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun. It was a rude welcome back to Petco Park for a Padres offense that scored a franchise-record 44 runs during the weekend series at Coors Field.

Then again, the Padres didn’t need much offense. Not with the way Lucchesi was pitching.

“It was only two,” Green said. “But Joey did what we needed.”

Lucchesi returned to the mound in the eighth, mostly as a procedural move. Green wanted Brewers skipper Craig Counsell to burn a righty pinch-hitter before going to Craig Stammen. That’s precisely how things unfolded, and after Manny Pina was introduced and Stammen summoned, Counsell called for Eric Thames off his bench instead.

Stammen struck out Thames and worked a scoreless eighth. Kirby Yates was perfect in the ninth for his Major League leading 25th save. The Padres clawed their way back within a game of .500.

Before all that, Lucchesi left to a standing ovation. When Green took the ball from him in the top of the eighth, the 26-year-old left-hander turned to his infielders and said, “Man, I love you guys,” then began walking toward the home dugout.

Given how badly the Padres needed Lucchesi’s effort Monday night, it’s clear that feeling is mutual.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.