- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

A Welcome Rediscovery

So Seth Lugo [1] faced the Phillies last week and let’s just say it didn’t go well [2].

Lugo got strafed. He started out the game fanning Andrew McCutchen [3], but then gave up back-to-back-to-back homers, also yielding a triple and a run-scoring single in the inning while fanning two more. Can you strike out the side and have a horrible inning? Yes you can. Things went no better in the second: flyout, lineout, home run (that landed on Mars), double, hit by pitch, single, early shower.

It was a stunning sequence of futility, and doubly stunning because it happened to Lugo, who has a terrific arsenal and the brainpower to know how to make the most use of it. But that night he looked essentially unarmed: He was missing several MPH off his fastball, his location was poor, and the Phillie hitters were on seemingly everything he threw. My fear, as he made his early departure, was that he was hurt — which wouldn’t have been a shock, given the elbow damage he’s pitched with for some time, but also would have been more bad starting-pitcher news for a team that can’t afford any more going into 2021.

So I sat down Tuesday night with some trepidation. Would Lugo continue to look like a guy who couldn’t wake up from a nightmare? Could he fix whatever was ailing him against the Rays, a thoroughly impressive team whose players make very few mistakes and always seem to have a plan?

Happily, Lugo looked like the Lugo we’ve foolishly come to take pretty much for granted. The oomph on the fastball was still mostly missing, which may simply be the cost of moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation, but everything else was working [4]. Including, perhaps, a tweak that mostly was left out of conversations: The chatter in the SNY booth (on an entertainingly pointed and perky night for Gary, Keith and Ron) was that Lugo may have been tipping his pitches in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell [5] got a little squeezed by the umpire (and complained about it a lot) and a little unlucky, which was enough to make him the loser. Robinson Cano [6] — who’s had a wonderful year and done so much to wash away the murk and muck of his first campaign — started the Mets off with a solo homer, and then Pete Alonso [7] got into the act with a fourth-inning homer of his own. Alonso brought in two more runs later in the game and looked like he was actually enjoying playing baseball for once. The batting average isn’t there and the fielding has slipped — in fact, the Polar Bear has looked a lot more like the feast-or-famine guy scouting reports warned we’d get in 2019 than the Rookie of the Year we so thoroughly enjoyed — but we should recall that Alonso’s still working on what would be a 37-homer season in a full campaign. That will play; throw in some more smiles from the BABIP gods and it will play very nicely.

(Oh, and the heretofore anonymous Guillermo Heredia [8] — whose first name I still can’t remember without asking Google or my wife — went deep, proving that he not only really does exist but might actually be good for something.)

Then there was Todd Frazier [9]. I’ve done a lot of grousing about Frazier’s return from the omniscient vantage point of my couch, which is a stance that’s far from controversial — he’s hitting a robust .212, though there is that 0.00 ERA — but admittedly has been amplified by my own prejudices. I’ve always been inclined to favor young players with theoretically bright futures over aging veterans with long, mostly complete tenures, and I’ve been an enormous fan of Luis Guillorme [10]‘s throughout his time with the Mets, convinced he’d succeed if granted regular playing time. So I felt a little guilty when Frazier started a nifty double play in the sixth, short-circuiting a dangerous situation for the Mets. I started to grumble that Guillorme would have made the play too, then chided myself for crossing the line between prejudice and absurdity.

Shortly thereafter, Frazier had a chance for another DP and promptly muffed it. Sometimes baseball forces you to reexamine your own blind spots and biases, and sometimes, well, it shamelessly enables them. FREE LUIS GUILLORME!