SAN FRANCISCO — It was a starting point, maybe a bit of an audition, but definitely not the kind of thing that was meant to last. Injuries and a suspension had burned through four-fifths of the Mets’ planned rotation. Their initial wave of Minor League depth was already in the Majors. Forget outstanding performance. From Joey Lucchesi, the Mets just wanted innings.
Making his first Major League appearance since Tommy John’s surgery nearly two years ago, Lucchesi gave the Mets that, then some, and more. In a 7-0 win over the Giants at Oracle Park on Friday, Lucchesi delivered what was by far the best start for any Met this season, and probably 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 efficiency – it was Lucchesi’s most outstanding performance (game score of 79) since becoming a major leaguer there. five years old.
“It was sick, man,” Lucchesi said. “I think this is my best outing.”
Trembling early, Lucchesi put two of the first three batters he faced on base, then walked the point guard in the second. He admitted to being nervous. But when Lucchesi pulled Heliot Ramos out to escape Round 2, his confidence surged. He thought, “Oh, I get it,” and from then on, he did. Starting with Ramos’ strikeout, Lucchesi has struck out 14 of the last 17 batters he’s faced, registering all nine of his punches in that streak.
Pete Alonso provided the required offense with a two-run homer in the fifth inning against Anthony DeSclafani, becoming the first player in Mets history to hit 10 home runs before the start of May. But even Alonso, who finished with four RBIs and punished some of the league’s best pitchers this season, was fascinated by what Lucchesi was able to do.
“He was right-handed,” Alonso said, referring to the “funk” and “uniqueness” of his teammate’s left-handed delivery.
“You could see his confidence growing as he went through the heats,” added manager Buck Showalter.
For Lucchesi, this debut was special for three distinct reasons. First, about 50 family members and friends of the East Bay native attended, including his parents and brother. Lucchesi grew up as an A fan in Newark, Calif., just a half-hour drive from Oracle Park.
In years past, he told his parents not to attend his games because their presence made him nervous. But given both his location and his long absence from the Majors, Lucchesi decided to extend the rare invitation.
“I’m going to tell them to come whenever they want now,” Lucchesi said with a laugh.
The second reason for Lucchesi’s joy was the importance of this performance for the Mets. Missing four of their regular starters through a trio of injuries and the suspension of Max Scherzer, the Mets relied heavily on pitchers such as David Peterson, Tylor Megill and Jose Butto – all of whom were originally slated to be part of the roster. Triple-A spin from Syracuse. . They could all be in the big leagues by next week. Given this background, Showalter described Lucchesi as “another guy who dials in when needed”.
But that success was also personal for Lucchesi, who has spent the past 22 months recovering from Tommy John surgery. Before undergoing the surgery in June 2021, Lucchesi felt like he had finally made his mark in the big leagues, counting on an increase in speed to produce solid results. The surgery changed that and her mindset. During his rehabilitation, Lucchesi worked on his diet, breathing and repertoire, honing his cutter to become a true three-pitch thrower.
He called Tommy John’s rehab a “frustrating” experience, especially given the lack of clarity about his future. When Lucchesi showed up in Florida as a healthy pitcher this spring, he ranked no higher than eighth on the Mets’ starting pitching depth chart.
“And then move quickly to that exit,” said Lucchesi, who expects to receive at least one more start next week. “A lot of emotions. You just have to try to stay patient and wait for that moment, and that moment for me was tonight.