PHOENIX -- Joey Lucchesi returned from the disabled list two weeks ago, but the Padres truly unleashed the rookie left-hander on Friday night.
After he was limited in each of his last three outings, Lucchesi was given the green light Friday night in a 3-1 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field. For five innings, he was excellent. The sixth told a different story.
Lucchesi walked opposing pitcher Zack Godley to lead off the frame. After a pair of singles, he threw a fastball that grazed A.J. Pollock's jersey, tying the game. His night was done, and Arizona would score once more on Steven Souza Jr.'s RBI groundout. The Padres' slumping offense couldn't claw its way back.
"You get into the sixth inning, his pitch count's low, you want to see him attack that inning," said Padres manager Andy Green. "The thing that hurts him is the walk to Godley. Outside of that, it was a very good day for him."
Lucchesi wasn't particularly poor in the sixth, but he struggled with damage control. He struck out five in the first five innings and allowed one hit, expertly mixing his curve and his changeup. In the sixth, that putaway pitch never came.
"My mistake was walking Godley," Lucchesi lamented afterward.
The result was a bit unfair on Lucchesi, who has posted 1.26 ERA in his past three starts. He appears to have found the same groove that earned him notoriety in April and May as one of the National League's top rookies.
But he's been something of a different pitcher since his return, adding curveballs to his typical fastball/changeup mix. The Padres feel Lucchesi's extra offspeed offering might help make him a more complete pitcher. He's throwing his curve for strikes early in counts and his changeup -- which has curveball tendencies and is often referred to as a "churve" -- as his putaway pitch.
The Padres are adamant in their belief that Lucchesi can be an important part of their rotation going forward. Once again, he showed he's capable on Friday night.
But the Padres offense did little to support him. That's become something of a recurring theme.
"You've got pitchers who want to be perfect because they know the margins are thin right now," said Green. "They're doing absolutely everything they can to keep us in games. And they did. When you play a good offensive ballclub and you give up three runs, you give your team a chance to win a baseball game."
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Not as easy as 1-2-3: The Padres called for righty sidearmer Adam Cimber in relief of Lucchesi with the bases loaded in a tie game in the sixth. Cimber got Souza to bounce into the comebacker he wanted. But he couldn't handle the short hop, and the ball skittered away toward first base. Cimber chased it down in time to get Souza. But there would be no 1-2-3 double play, and the D-backs took a 2-1 lead.
Shaky Stammen:Craig Stammen has filled a number of roles in the Padres' bullpen this season, and he's done all of them well. But Friday night, he labored when asked for a second frame. Nick Ahmed led off the eighth inning with a double, and he scored when Souza snuck a grounder through the left side. Stammen loaded the bases with two outs, before Robbie Erlin entered to retire Chris Owings, keeping the Padres within striking distance.
It's been a particularly tough road trip for Eric Hosmer. The Padres first baseman is 0-for-15 in four games against Oakland and Arizona, and his average dropped to .261 on Friday night.
A month ago, that mark hovered around .300. But Hosmer has simply pounded too many baseballs into the ground lately. His 69 percent ground ball rate is the highest mark in the Majors in the last 30 days.
"He's grinding," said Green. "He's fighting hard. Some of that manifests in some overaggression, trying to get that hit at times. He just hasn't squared up a lot of baseballs here lately. You're just waiting for that one ball that's crushed the other way. There's a thought in my head that as soon as he does that, he's going to get rolling again. He's just running through a stretch that's tough right now."
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Few would mistake Lucchesi for a "pitcher who rakes," given his awkward stance at the plate and some of his baserunning antics. But he notched his first career hit in the top of the third inning on Friday. Lucchesi smacked an 0-1 cutter from Godley to the opposite field with one out in the third. Later in the frame, he'd score the Padres' only run on Carlos Asuaje's RBI groundout.
The last time he took the mound at Chase Field, Tyson Ross carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning. He'll be looking for more of the same on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. PT. Ross struggled against Pittsburgh in his last time out. But he's been the anchor to the Padres' rotation this season -- and possibly a trade chip ahead of this month's Trade Deadline. The D-backs counter with left-hander Robbie Ray.