Mets starting pitcher Seth Lugo was charged with eight runs (seven earned) during three-plus innings Thursday night during a 14-6 loss to the Cubs.
"It's been a rough season for me," said Lugo, who is 3-4 with a 5.90 ERA over his last 12 games (11 starts) since starting the season 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA. "It's been a rough season for a lot of guys."
Since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 5, Lugo has a 6.59 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in 28 2/3 innings, during which opponents are hitting .308 against him.
Lugo allowed all four batters he faced in the bottom of the fourth inning to reach base. He was pulled in favor of Josh Smoker after giving up an RBI double to Jon Jay and a two-run double to Kris Bryant that gave the Cubs a 7-5 lead.
Matthew Cerrone (Twitter | Instagram | About Me): He's throwing the same number of pitches in the strike zone as he did last season, roughly 45 percent. The problem is that he has significantly less velocity and life on all four of his pitches, including his curveball, which had been a major weapon for him last season.
He said this past winter that he intended to throw his curveball more, which he has. However, he's using his changeup (instead of his slider) to set it up, and it doesn't seem to be working for him like it did in 2016. Why is he overall less sharp?
My hunch is it's a combination of his shoulder and elbow, on which he may need to have operated at some point in the future. It's possible to keep pitching as he has with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. However, the tear gets worse due more to stress than the act of throwing.
Remember, Lugo cut his spring training short to make three starts and throw 15 innings for Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic, after which he hit the DL and missed the first 10 weeks of the season due to pain in his elbow. He retuned from the DL to pitch OK, but then went back on the DL with a shoulder impingement.
I'm sure he isn't pitching free and easy, and he may be in a lose-lose situation here as it pertains to being a pitcher the Mets can rely upon to throw every five days and pitch seven innings.
I said it throughout the offseason, and I'll repeat it: Lugo is uniquely qualified to become this team's version of Indians reliever Andrew Miller, who made headlines the last two seasons for his ability to fill multiple bullpen roles.
Feb 24, 2017; Lugo (67) throws a pitch at JetBlue Park. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Mets were 7-1 last season when Lugo filled in for a battered rotation, during which he had a 2.68 ERA and struck out 5.6 batters per nine innings. In nine relief appearances, he also had a 2.65 ERA and struck out 8.5 per nine innings.
The benefit to the spin on Lugo's curveball is that the opposition often makes weak contact against him, assuming they make contact at all. However, the concern for him is that he doesn't have much spin on his other pitches, which can often make the rest of his arsenal a bit vulnerable, especially the more he is seen and scouted as a starting pitcher. I think we're seeing this in 2017, especially now that more scouting reports and data is available on his game.
Lugo may no longer be a secret, but he can still be a very effective weapon, but only if they ditch using him in the rotation and start utilizing him like the Indians Miller. He was needed in the rotation again in 2017, just like he was in 2016. Hopefully, that will not be the case next season, and he can finally find a home as a successful, head-turning reliever.
By the way, the Cubs scored 39 runs during the three-game sweep of the Mets, their most in a three-game series since June 1-3, 1987, against the Astros.
"We certainly got them ready for the Cardinals," Terry Collins quipped after the game.