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Lucchesi becoming master of deception

Padres starter picks off 2 Nationals runners
MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- On every pitch Joey Lucchesi throws, his quirky delivery makes it seem as though he's about to step toward first base before he ultimately kicks home.

Except sometimes he doesn't come home at all.

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SAN DIEGO -- On every pitch Joey Lucchesi throws, his quirky delivery makes it seem as though he's about to step toward first base before he ultimately kicks home.

Except sometimes he doesn't come home at all.

View Full Game Coverage

Sometimes, when there's a runner on first base, Lucchesi brandishes one of the sport's best pickoff moves. And it took center stage in Wednesday night's 2-1 Padres victory over Washington, when Lucchesi nabbed two Nationals baserunners, shutting down a pair of would-be rallies.

"I've been trying to work on my craft," said Lucchesi, who allowed one run over five-plus innings while striking out six. "Little things like that get you out of innings quicker."

Lucchesi is the only pitcher in the Majors with three pickoffs this season, and Wednesday marked the first time this year that a pitcher has recorded two picks in the same game.

Just how good is Lucchesi's move? Ask first baseman Eric Hosmer. He has the best vantage point, after all.

"Honestly, to this point in the season, I still couldn't even tell you when he's coming over," Hosmer said. "It's that deceptive."

Hosmer recalled the team's first bunting drills during Spring Training. He was stationed on first while Lucchesi threw to the plate. Instead of breaking toward home, Hosmer was fooled into retreating to the bag, because he believed Lucchesi was about to throw over.

The deception has always been there. But since Lucchesi arrived in the organization via the 2016 Draft, he's gotten smarter about using his move. He's developed a second move -- he calls it "a bad move" -- to bait runners into leaving too soon.

Then he strikes. That was the case in the fourth inning with one out and Howie Kendrick leading off first base.

"I said, 'I'm going to go slow and see if this guy goes, because I'm pretty sure he's going to go,'" Lucchesi said. "He went, I just flicked it [to first] and got him."

Lucchesi has an excellent mentor in left-hander Clayton Richard, owner of 34 career big league pickoffs. Richard was the last pitcher to pick two baserunners in the same game. Coincidentally, it came last May against the Nationals.

Lucchesi has also worked with the Padres coaching staff at varying his moves. An inning after he nabbed Kendrick, Nats second baseman Wilmer Difo was hung up on a Lucchesi pick that was much more direct than the first.

"I'm just becoming smarter about it," Lucchesi said. "I'm just learning the game better. I'm a student of the game, man."

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

San Diego Padres, Joey Lucchesi