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Padres jump on miscues to back solid Lucchesi

Rookie lefty strikes out six, allows two runs over 5 1/3 innings
July 23, 2018

NEW YORK -- Maybe Joey Lucchesi just needed the big stage.Last week, the rookie left-hander made his first career Triple-A start. After missing time in May and June with a right hip strain, the Padres wanted Lucchesi to keep his rhythm during the All-Star break. He was lit up in

NEW YORK -- Maybe Joey Lucchesi just needed the big stage.
Last week, the rookie left-hander made his first career Triple-A start. After missing time in May and June with a right hip strain, the Padres wanted Lucchesi to keep his rhythm during the All-Star break. He was lit up in Albuquerque to the tune of seven runs over 2 2/3 innings.
Five days later, he beat Jacob deGrom in New York City.
Lucchesi was sharp over 5 1/3 innings on Monday night, and the Padres manufactured just enough offense for a 3-2 victory over the Mets at Citi Field. Lucchesi allowed two runs and struck out six without surrendering a walk. He went toe-to-toe with a National League Cy Young Award favorite and didn't flinch.

"It tells me what I'm capable of," Lucchesi said. "I can pitch against anyone in this league."
Such is the nature of Lucchesi, who clearly isn't fazed by much. He was promoted to the big leagues well ahead of schedule, pitching the second game of the season when Dinelson Lamet injured his elbow on the last day of Spring Training. As the first pitcher to arrive in the big leagues from the 2016 Draft class, Lucchesi owns a 3.34 ERA in 15 starts.
"There's no fear in him," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He stepped up and pitched a great baseball game today."
Lucchesi fell behind in the third on Wilmer Flores' RBI single. But the Padres used a Jose Bautista error in the fifth to spark a two-run rally. Bautista misplayed a relatively routine Christian Villanueva fly ball, before Freddy Galvis and Manuel Margot followed with RBI hits. San Diego tacked on another in the sixth when Jose Reyes misplayed an Eric Hosmer grounder, allowing William Myers to score.

Myers doubled twice against deGrom. Otherwise, the offense wasn't exactly pretty, but it was enough for Lucchesi and a new-look San Diego bullpen. Kirby Yates picked up his first save since the deal that sent closer Brad Hand to Cleveland.

Lucchesi, meanwhile, quashed any concerns about his poor outing in the Minors. He still hasn't completed six innings since he returned from his hip injury in mid-June. But over his last four big league starts, Lucchesi owns a 2.28 ERA.
"He had a blip," Green said. "I wouldn't just say, 'Hey he's good on the big stage under the big lights.' I think he's just good. Period."
Margot returns in style: Margot was back in center field for the Padres for the first time since he sprained his left wrist in Philadelphia on Friday night. Evidently, that wrist is feeling fine. Margot swatted a go-ahead triple in the fifth, plating Galvis from first, and has now hit safely in his last five games.

deGrom at the dish:Craig Stammen entered in the sixth after Lucchesi allowed consecutive singles to Bautista and Michael Conforto. The veteran right-hander allowed a run to score on a swinging bunt by Reyes. But Stammen escaped when Mets manager Mickey Callaway made the decision to let deGrom hit for himself. deGrom bounced harmlessly to short, and the Mets wouldn't seriously threaten again.

Monday's game marked the first time since Hand and Adam Cimber were traded last Thursday that Green had a small lead to protect. His moves offered a few clues as to how he plans to use his relief corps going forward.
Yates is the Padres' new closer, and he was as sharp as he's ever been, lowering his ERA to 1.40 in his 40th appearance. Stammen will continue to pitch high-leverage spots, specifically entering to put out fires with men on base. Phil Maton, meanwhile, should see his share of important innings. He struck out Devin Mesoraco and Brandon Nimmo in the eighth.
"There's an extra gear in leverage for him," Green said of Maton. "I've always felt that way about him. He gets into a situation that he feels is big for his team, and he finds a little bit more."
After pitching two innings on Sunday, Matt Strahm wasn't available on Monday night. But it's a safe bet he and Maton see the biggest increase in roles in the absence of Hand and Cimber.
Lucchesi certainly isn't known for being nimble. And, generally speaking, his defense could use some work. But he made an excellent play to rob Reyes of another infield hit in the bottom of the fourth. Lucchesi fielded a chopper up the first-base line and flipped to Hosmer for the out, while tumbling up the line.

"That might be the best play he's ever made in his life," Green said.
"Yeah, that's probably the toughest one I've made, ever," Lucchesi confirmed.
"We put a little pressure on, made things happen. That's the way you beat a guy like that." -- Hosmer, on deGrom
Eric Lauer owns a 3.17 ERA since the start of June, and he's seen an uptick in his fastball velocity during that time as well. The 23-year-old left-hander looks to carry his recent success into the second half of the season on Monday night at Citi Field, when he faces the Mets at 4:10 p.m. PT. New York counters with right-hander Zack Wheeler.

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