The Mets have been in a downward slide since the All-Star break. The most recent debacles were the shutting down of starter Johan Santana for the remainder of the season and being swept in a four game series to the woeful and also injury ridden Colorado Rockies at Citi Field.
The only positive for a losing team in the final weeks of a season is being able to bring up minor league players for the opportunity to test their skills at the major league level during regular season games. Thursday’s starting pitcher for the Mets, Collin McHugh, was making his big league debut in place of Santana.
The 25 year-old hurler’s official journey to the majors began in 2008, when he was selected by the Mets in the 18th round of the MLB June Amateur Draft. He slowly moved up in class since his draft. During the 2012 season, he made 12 starts for Binghamton in AA and then moved up to make 12 additional starts for Buffalo in AAA.
McHugh’s pre-September call-up to start on Thursday afternoon was caused by Santana’s injury that prevented him from making his scheduled start. Thus, one can understand from this situation that one man’s curse can be another man’s blessing.
After the contest ended, Met’s manager Terry Collins spoke about this type of happenstance all season, “When our starting pitching went down, you have to start looking at the younger guys.”
After 2012 Olympic gymnast gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas threw out the ceremonial first pitch, McHugh threw his first pitch of the game at 1:11 pm. The first Colorado batter, Charlie Blackmon, doubled to left. The rookie then retired the next three batters, fanning Jordan Pacheco and Carlos Gonzalez.
The neophyte continued his excellent work during the next six innings. In his seven frames, McHugh only surrendered two hits. He walked one batter, Gonzalez, and struck out nine. The high level of his performance was very rare. He was the first Met making his debut in the majors since Masato Yoshii on April 5, 1998, to pitch seven scoreless innings. He is only the third hurler making his Major League debut to pitch at least seven innings, give up two hits and strike out nine.
Catcher Josh Thole said of his rookie batterymate’s performance, “He was outstanding today. He hammered the strike zone.”
McHugh described his feelings on the mound, “I felt great. I felt real comfortable out there…My goal was to go out there and give this team a chance to win. This is my debut, but I hope to have a lot more.”
The young pitcher expressed joy in the presence of his immediate family and close friends being in the park to see him perform well, “[Present were] mom, dad, wife, sister, brother, cousin, and a couple of friends that could be family. The Lord has really blessed me more than I deserve.”
McHugh’s outstanding outing did not lead to a Mets win due to the club’s lack of effective offense and the usual ineffective bullpen work. Met batters went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position, lowering the club’s clutch output to 25 for 143, a batting average below .180 during the month of August.
The Mets bullpen in the person of Bobby Parnell gave up the only run of the game very quickly in the eighth. Pacheco tripled over the head of Jordany Valdespin in center. Collins admitted of the misplay by the converted infielder, “You have to be careful of putting guys out of position. It’s [a mistake] going to happen at the wrong time.” The next batter, Chris Nelson, singled to score Pacheco. The loss was the 25th by a Mets reliever this year. The Mets bullpen has the worst ERA in the majors.
In contrast to the Mets bullpen, Colorado’s relievers held the Mets scoreless for six innings. Reliever Rex Brothers, who pitched the sixth and seventh innings, earned his seventh straight win.
The Mets have yet to score a run off Colorado starter Tyler Chatwood. The 22 year old has blanked New York for 10 innings of work, giving up only seven hits. He left the game on Thursday after only three innings.
The two teams are moving in opposite directions. The Rockies, although in last place in the N.L. West, have been victorious in 9 of their last 11 contests while the Mets have only won 4 of their most recent 17 games.
Collins spoke very openly of the current play of his team, “We can’t execute. We left 12 guys on base today.” Speaking of the sweep by the Rockies, he admitted, “They [Rockies] got big hits. They just played better.”
The Mets will next play a weekend series with the team with the worst record in the majors, the Houston Astros. Houston, making its final appearances as a National League team at Citi Field, will start Jordan Lyles (2-10) on Friday night. The Mets starter will be Jonathon Niese (10-6).