Mets History: The unexpectedly important debut of Seth Lugo in 2016
By Tim Boyle
On July 1, 2016, Seth Lugo made his big league debut with the New York Mets. We revisit the first game he stepped on the mound in the orange and blue.
When Seth Lugo made his MLB debut for the New York Mets back in 2016, there was little fanfare to see him step on the mound. The 34th round pick from 2011 wasn’t performed well in the minor leagues or someone anyone was expecting much from other than to eat up innings in losses.
In fact, this is precisely how it turned out. Following his debut on July 1, 2016, Lugo only pitched in relief for the Mets during games they eventually lost. He did lose a game for them against the New York Yankees during extra innings on August 1, taking the mound for the first time with a legitimate chance to help his team win. Unfortunately, he didn’t.
Lugo did eventually join the starting rotation for the Mets. After losing his first start, Lugo finished the season with seven straight appearances which led to Mets victories.
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Let’s back up a bit first to his actual first game on July 1.
The Mets, in need of a swingman at the time, promoted Lugo. Sean Gilmartin was demoted and an ailing Steven Matz needed some backup in the rotation just in case of an injury. The man who usually took on this role, Logan Verrett, had just thrown 92 pitches and would not be able to fill his usual duties.
Lugo didn’t exactly get to perform in any high-leverage situation right away. In a Jacob deGrom victory at home against the Chicago Cubs, he was the man to record the final six outs.
The Mets pummeled Cubs starter Jason Hammel for 10 early runs and chased him before the fourth inning was through. When Lugo took the mound in the top of the 8th, his team was ahead 10-2. With little immediate danger, he threw his first MLB pitch to Matt Szczur. A ground out to second base was the end result.
Things then began to get rocky. The next batter, Jason Heyward, singled. Perhaps feeling some jitters, Lugo was called for a balk with Kris Bryant at the plate. On a 2-0 pitch, he got Bryant to ground out to third base for the second out.
Finally, on three pitches, Lugo recorded his first MLB strikeout when he got Anthony Rizzo swinging.
Lugo returned for the top of the 9th for another adventure. After getting catcher Willson Contreras to ground out, Javier Baez singled. The next hitter, Addison Russell, was hit by a pitch. The Mets were far from losing this one. However, Lugo’s debut was in danger of turning into a bad one.
Conceding victory, pitcher Trevor Cahill came up to bat next. I find it interesting that there was no pinch-hitter. The Cubs only used one position player other than the starting eight this day. Whatever Joe Maddon was thinking worked in Lugo’s favor. He struck out Cahill for another K.
With two on and two out, Albert Almora ended the game with a short fly ball to left field. The game was over. Lugo was officially a big league pitcher. His debut went smoothly.
Lugo continued to give the Mets satisfactory innings in relief. He finished the year with a 2.65 ERA as a relief pitcher with multiple appearances including more than a single inning.
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As we’ve been lucky enough to witness since, Lugo has handled a big role in the bullpen. Unfortunately in 2019, he has caught the “blown save bug” and is one of the many relievers having bad years. Like many, I’m hopeful he can get back to where he was before.