Poor Control the Culprit in Lugo’s Rocky Mountain Struggles

Deservedly so, Seth Lugo was not pegged with the loss in last night’s frustrating 10-8 implosion against the Colorado Rockies, instead taking a no-decision. Between the thin air of Coors Field, an inconsistent strike zone, questionable shifts, and some shoddy fundamental defense, it would be unfair to drop what evolved into a dysfunctional back-and-forth affair on Lugo’s shoulders.

With that in mind, however, it’s still easy to understand why Lugo’s 72-pitch effort – where only 40 even registered as strikes – was ultimately a disappointing response to Jason Vargas‘ horrid outing the night before. A frantic, staccato second inning and monotonous 29-pitch third, although finished under his own power, ultimately sealed Lugo’s fate, as his final line was mottled by six runs (three earned), six hits, one homer, and two walks amidst five strikeouts.

Up 3-0 in the bottom of the first inning, Lugo secured two quick outs – the latter a strikeout of Charlie Blackmon – by serving up a cookie to Nolan Arenado that swiftly landed in another zip code.

After his teammates put up a run of their own to keep him ahead, Lugo fell victim to a Todd Frazier throwing error to lead off the second inning. 11 pitches later, Gerardo Parra had singled in the runner while Ian Desmond walked to put two on with none out. After a pitch miscommunication triggered a Devin Mesoraco passed ball and put men at second and third, Lugo got the timely double-play grounder that, because of this prior snafu, instead went down an RBI 4-3 to bring the Rockies within a run. DJ LeMahieu soon singled to tie things up before Lugo again whiffed Blackmon to end the inning.

The real sticking point in Lugo’s start seemed to be his inability to hit his spots, and the inconsistencies manifested themselves at the beginning of the third inning, when Colorado used a first-pitch Arenado single and a four-pitch walk to the aging, slumping Carlos Gonzalez to their advantage.

Granted, two total walks don’t necessarily enforce the standard narrative of inaccurate pitching, but whether or not altitude was a factor, Lugo really only demonstrated effective use of his curveball when he managed strikeouts of Desmond and opposing pitcher Chad Bettis for his final two outs on the evening. These sequences aside, Lugo made use of the breaking ball just ten times across the final two innings – with only one curveball even being called for a strike.

“We saw a bit of that,” said manager Mickey Callaway when asked about Lugo’s hiccups with his curveball “…so he probably didn’t trust it as much as he could, and his overall command with his fastball wasn’t there… We probably would’ve left him out there, had he not thrown 27 and then 33 pitches, and then we started worrying about his health.”

With the medical picture surrounding ailing flamethrower Noah Syndergaard becoming clearer, there’s plenty of reason to believe Lugo will have another chance or two to get off the west coast schneid and work as efficiently as he had done through his first two starts at home.

His 4.23 starter ERA this year is a little more comparable to what he had managed as a starter the year before, but between the two shortened shutouts and the volatile nature of the last two hitter-friendly parks he’s been dropped in, Seth Lugo should not be judged in the aggregate. Rather, he should be given every opportunity to rebound the next chance management gives him.

About Jack Hendon 220 Articles
Jack Hendon (@jack_hendon99 on Twitter) is a sophomore at Haverford College, special assistant/statistician for the baseball team, prospective English major and psychology minor, and contributor to MetsMerized Online. He was seven when he saw Carlos Beltran take strike three in the 2006 NLCS, and since then has concentrated his love for the Mets through writing about particular fan memories, while also devoting time to recapping games, analyzing pitchers, and heckling (when appropriate) at Citi Field. LGM!