Joey Lucchesi wasn't happy with his first start at the Class A Advanced level, a four-inning outing in which he allowed two runs. He's using the mistakes he made to learn and push forward, and the early results are promising.
The Padres prospect took a no-hitter into the sixth and ended up allowing one hit over six innings before Lake Elsinore posted a 4-3, 10-inning victory over Inland Empire. Lucchesi recorded eight strikeouts and helped the Storm snap a six-game losing streak.
"My first start wasn't that great -- I did OK but not as well as I wanted," he said. "In this league, you have to keep [the ball] low and mix it up. ... I just told myself to keep it low and pitch to their weaknesses. I was doing a really good job locating my fastball, executing on my two-strike pitches and throwing my curveball and changeup for strikes."
Lucchesi faced the minimum through two innings, despite issuing a one-out walk to Connor Justus in the second, as the left-hander picked him off two batters later. He started the third by striking out Julian Leon and fanned Brad Anderson, who reached on a wild third strike, before walking Brendon Sanger to put runners at first and second with one out.
The 2016 fourth-round pick struck out Zach Gibbons and got Angels No. 2 prospect Matt Thaiss to ground to first to end the threat. He retired the next six batters before running into trouble in the sixth. A leadoff single by Sanger and a free pass to Thaiss two batters later again put two men on with one out, but 25th-ranked Angels prospect Jared Foster grounded into an inning-ending double play.
"They were both full counts -- I usually just step off, take a breather and find my focal point on the scoreboard," Lucchesi said. "The word 'strike' relaxes me; I was able to zone back in and throw the pitch I needed to get out of those innings. That's what kind of relaxed me. I know I'm able to throw strikes and just need to be relaxed and that helped me out."
Lucchesi was in line for his first professional win in his 14th career start after the Storm built a 3-0 lead. Padres No. 13 prospect Michael Gettys hit an RBI single in the fourth and 15th-ranked prospect Josh Naylor followed with a two-run homer, his second in as many games. But reliever Jose Castillo surrendered three runs on one hit and three walks in the seventh as Sanger hit a two-run single to center and Anderson scored on a wild pitch by T.J. Weir, who replaced Castillo with two outs.
"Coming out of the game, I felt like I did what I needed to do as a starter and left the game in a positive way," Lucchesi said. "I just had to trust my team, but things don't always go the way you want. I'm just thankful we came out with the win. It's been rough lately, but hopefully, this gets us back on track."
The 6-foot-5, 204-pound lefty has done his part to get Lake Elsinore back in the win column, increasing his workload from four innings to five, then six in three starts. He's also allowed fewer hits in each successive outing, going from four in the opener to three in his last start and one on Wednesday.
"We're on a pitch count right now, but I'm trying to keep mine low so I can throw more -- if I don't, I'll be out [sooner]," Lucchesi said. "Trying to be smarter about my pitches and when I need to strike people out, get groundouts and go deeper into the game, which I want to do."
Lucchesi's only issue this season has been walks. After issuing three free passes over 42 innings for Class A Short Season Tri-City and Class A Fort Wayne in 2016, he's already walked eight in 15 frames this season, albeit with a California League-leading 19 strikeouts.
"The umpires have been kind of tight [with their zones]," Lucchesi said. "I feel like my walks today were more strikes when they called balls. I just have to work on keeping the ball down and throwing more strikes on my part, just going into the game with a positive mindset and attacking the zone."
Lake Elsinore broke through in the 10th as Chris Baker hit a two-out double to left field to score Miguel Del Castillo with the go-ahead run.
Weir (1-0) picked up the win after allowing two hits and two walks while striking out one in 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Jose Ruiz pitched a 1-2-3 10th to secure his first save of the season.
Inland Empire starter Jose Rodriguez allowed three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts over 6 2/3 frames, while Tyler Warmoth (1-1) yielded a run on three hits and fanned three over the final two innings.