Seth Lugo doesn’t get rattled, if he does then he’s got one heck of a poker face.
Since joining the Mets’ starting rotation a short time ago, Lugo’s exceeded expectations and the Mets are reaping the benefits.
The Mets are in the middle of a playoff race and it appears they’ve found a pitcher who looks more like a playoff-tested ace rather than a rookie.
Lugo pitched seven innings and allowed only one run to help the Mets to a 5-1 win over the National League East division-leading Washington Nationals Sunday night at Citi Field.
The win kept the Mets on pace in the Wild Card standings. By taking two out of three from the Nationals over the weekend, the Mets sent a statement that they’re very much in this thing.
Through four starts Lugo’s ERA sits at an impressive 2.19, he was brilliant against the Nationals. He’s been everything Mets manager Terry Collins needed for his wounded pitching staff.
It’s how Lugo’s achieving success at this level which has been so impressive. He’s an extremely poised pitcher.
Lugo’s a 26-year old rookie the Mets drafted in the 34th round in 2011, the same draft class as outfielder and first-rounder Brandon Nimmo.
He approaches opposing hitters like a battle-tested veteran, mixing his pitches like a game of chess.
Lugo’s done a good job of keeping opponents off-balance, the Nationals found this out the hard way.
After laboring through the first two innings, including giving up a monster home run to Danny Espinosa, Lugo settled in and began to methodically pick apart Washington’s lineup.
At one point Lugo retired 11 straight batters before allowing a sixth-inning single by ex-Met Daniel Murphy.
Lugo gathered himself and calmly retired the next three Washington batters, finishing Wilson Ramos off with a 97 MPH fastball to retire the side. Jay Bruce would finish the Nationals off with a 2-run homer in the bottom half of the inning.
That sixth inning was the key to the ballgame and it best described how the Mets are finding ways to keep the heat on the Cardinals and Giants for one of those wild cards.
“I thought he settled down after the second inning and really pitched well,” said Collins afterwards on Lugo.” He took command of the strike zone, both sides of the plate, off-speed pitches. He really pitched well.”
Lugo’s not a power-pitcher like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, or Noah Syndergaard. He’s cut from a different cloth.
He pitches with a hint of deception, the fastball which purposely sits in the early 90’s sets up his go-to pitch, a nasty curveball with a big-time hook.
Lugo’s sixth-inning strikeout of Ramos showed he can dial it up if needed, the timing couldn’t have been anymore right than for at that moment.
“He knows he’s got a 96,” Collins said about Lugo’s deceptive fastball. “But the command’s not real good so he stays around 92, 93 where he’s got some command and some movement. So he knows what he’s doing.”
Power pitchers are always fun to watch throw their best heat to rack up strikeouts. At this time of the year, however, it’s the ones who use brain over braun who tend to find themselves pitching in October.
It’s not only about being able to throw it by a hitter, it’s knowing when and how to get it by them. Lugo is doing this with ease and it’s been a pleasure to watch.
The Mets now head back on the road, they’re currently one game out of a playoff spot. This team’s scrapping to do more than just stay in the fight, it appears they’re beginning to see the finish line quickly approaching.
As for Lugo, nope he’s not Harvey, deGrom, Matz or Syndergaard. However, his contributions to the team are beginning to look very similar to a year ago.
“We had different names on the backs of those young pitchers,” said Collins.”Those young guys we had last year came up and really pitched well that last month. We’ve got a couple new ones, but they’re pitching very, very well for us.”
Lugo’s slowly becoming more than just a band-aid for this team, he’s beginning to show he might be worth keeping around should the Mets make it to October.