Joey Lucchesi outlasts the Giants on a stellar return to the Majors

San Francisco – This was an immediate start, maybe a bit of testing, but definitely not the kind of thing that was meant to last. Injuries and suspensions burned out four-fifths of the expected Mets turnover. The initial wave of minor league depth was already in the Majors. Forget exceptional performance. From Joey Lucchesi, the Mets just wanted innings.

In his first major league appearance since Tommy John surgery nearly two years ago, Lucchesi gave the Mets that and then some, then more. In a 7-0 win over the Giants at Oracle Park on Friday, Lucchesi pitched what was easily the best start of any Met this season, and possibly the best of his entire career: seven scoreless innings with nine strikeouts. In terms of game score — a measure of a starting pitcher’s overall effectiveness — this was Lucchesi’s most extraordinary performance (game score of 79) since becoming a senior five years ago.

“He was sick, man,” said Lucchesi. “I think this is the best outing for me.”

Shaken early, Lucchesi put out two of the first three batters he faced on base, then walked the lead in the second. Admit some nerves. But when Lucchese hit Heliot Ramos for a run in the second half, his confidence soared. He said to himself, “Oh, I get this,” and from that moment on, he did. Beginning with Ramos’ hit, Lucchesi retired 14 of the last 17 players he faced, scoring all nine hits over that distance.

“He was carving straight up,” said Alonso, noting the “funk” and “exclusivity” of his teammate’s left-handed delivery.

“You can see his confidence build as he keeps getting through the rounds,” added manager Buck Showalter.

For Lucchesi, this start was special for three distinct reasons. First, about 50 family and friends of East Bay residents showed up, including his parents and brother. A fan of the A’s, Lucchesi grew up in Newark, California, just a half-hour drive from Oracle Park.

In years past, he asked his parents not to come to his games because their presence made him nervous. But given the location of this venue and its long absence from the Majors, Lucchesi decided to extend the rare invitation.

“I’ll tell them to come whenever they want now,” Lucchesi said with a laugh.

The second reason for Lucchesi’s joy was the significance of this performance for the Mets. Missing four of their regular starters due to three injuries and the suspension of Max Scherzer, the Mets leaned heavily on pitchers like David Peterson, Taylor Miguel and Jose Poto — all of whom were originally slated to be in the Triple-A Syracuse rotation. . They might all be in the major leagues by next week. Given this context, Showalter described Lucchesi as “someone else to ask for in a time of need.”

But that success has also been personal to Lucchesi, who has spent the past 22 months working his way back from Tommy John surgery. Before undergoing the operation in June 2021, Lucci felt he had finally carved out his place in the big leagues, counting on his increased speed to deliver solid results. The surgery changed that, as well as his mindset. While in rehab, Lucchesi worked on his diet, breathing and ammunition, and honed his cutter so he could become a true three-pitch pitcher.

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He described Tommy John’s rehabilitation as a “frustrating” experience, particularly given the lack of clarity regarding his future. When Lucchesi reported to Florida as a healthy pitcher this spring, he didn’t rank eighth on the Mets’ starting depth chart.

“Then fast forward to this outing,” said Lucchesi, who will have at least one more next week. “So many feelings. You just have to try to be patient and wait for that moment, and that moment was for me tonight.”

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