Collin McHugh had an excellent major league debut back on August 23 against the Rockies, going 7 innings, striking out 9, and giving up just 2 hits and 1 walk. His outings since then have been less impressive. He performed yeomanlike work during The Worst Game Ever, pitching three runs in relief of Jeremy "Zero Outs" Hefner, but has otherwise turned in performances that could be best described as "not very good." This it is the long way of saying he stunk up the joint tonight.
McHugh struggled from the outset, loading the bases with one out on a bloop single by Josh Harrison, a long double by Andrew McCutchen, and a walk by Garrett Jones. He caught a bad break when Andres Torres failed to catch a shallow hit off Gaby Sanchez's bat, then caught a good break when Jones was fooled and forced out at second, essentially turning Sanchez's single into a sac fly. McHugh's luck ran out one batter later, as he fell behind Horace Mann's own Pedro Alvarez, then gave up a three-run opposite field bomb, putting the Mets in a quick 4-0 hole.
The bats responded to McHugh's poor start in the bottom of the first. No really, they did! Ruben Tejada hit a leadoff single against Wandy Rodriguez, and Justin Turner followed with a home run to left, his first hit in three weeks. (This fact was related by Gary Cohen with more incredulity than it probably deserved.) Not to be outdone, David Wright then belted his own longball, a moonshot above the home run apple in straightaway center, marking the first time the Mets have hit back-to-back dingers since, oh, let's say 1975.
The Pirates then responded to the Mets' response. Old friend Rod Barajas walked to open the top of the second, and if you remember correctly, walking Rod Barajas is not an easy thing to do. The catcher was erased on a sac bunt from Rodriguez, but Alex Presley smashed a double down the right field line, followed by a two-run triple from Harrison. McHugh walked McCutchen and then walked all the way to the dugout, replaced by Justin Hampson. He induced a grounder that should have resulted in at least one out, if Turner hadn't booted it. Instead, it went for an RBI fielder's choice. Hampson induced another grounder to third that Wright turned into an inning-ending double play, avoiding further damage, but Pittsburgh once again had a four-run lead.
Based on the first 1.5 innings, one might have thought this would turn into a back and forth affair, but after this point most of the game was less forth and more back, as in laid back. Hampson managed to keep the Pirates off the board in the third and fourth. but his teammates couldn't continue their first inning outburst, as Wandy had his way with them for the next five innings. The Mets were limited to one single and one walk over that stretch, the only sign of life coming when Turner opened the third inning by reaching first on an error, then got thrown out trying to scramble to second.
Hampson gave way to Elvin Ramirez in the top of the fifth, and he loaded the bases on a single and two walks, then issued another free pass to Alvarez to drive in a run. Ramirez dodged a bullet by inducing a pop up for the first out, then striking out the next two batters, then set the Pirates down in order in the sixth. Robert Carson took the mound in the seventh and got the first out easily, but suffered an apparent elbow injury during the second better he faced, forcing him to leave the game and giving the Mets' bullpen plans for next season a much needed question mark. Ramon Ramirez finished the frame in his absence.
Chris Resop (not an alien name) took over for Wandy in the seventh and gave the Mets a brief glimpse of hope, allowing a leadoff double to Andres Torres and a one-out single to Jordany Valdespin that Garrett Jones bobbled, allowing Torres to score. After Resop walked Tejada, he was removed for Jared Hughes (though he hung around in the dugout, looking on the verge of tears for some reason). The next batter, pinch hitter Daniel Murphy, hit a ground ball to third base with which Alvarez attempted to tag out Valdespin. Unfortunately, he attempted to do so with his glove while the ball was actually in his hand before firing it to first for the first out. Amazingly, the third base ump actually noticed this and ruled Valdespin was safe, despite griping from Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle.
The correct ruling allowed David Wright to hit come to the plate and hit a ball that missed Jones' glove by inches. The single drove in two runs, and also tied Wright with Ed Kranepool for the all time franchise hit record. Which of course makes this the perfect time to TRAID.
Wright's historic hit brought the Mets within two, but that was as close as they would get. After a quiet eighth inning on both sides (Bobby Parnell for the home team, Jason Grilli for the visitors), the Pirates got to the formerly unimpeachable Jon Rauch in the ninth. Alex Presley hit a leadoff single, then Jones atoned for his multiple miscues by blasting a two-out, two-run homer that put the game out of reach. In the bottom half, the Mets went quietly against Joel Hanrahan and his standard issue Crazy Closer Goatee.
This was a September baseball game through and through, from the miscues and poor play on both sides to the oddly depressing booth interview with Sandy Alderson. Even so, it did offer a bit of history in the way of Wright's record-tying hit. That sets up some nice reasons to tune in for the rest of the Mets' otherwise meaningless last homestand of the year: Wright trying to take sole possession of the all time hit leader crown (if it is, indeed, a crown) and R.A. Dickey going for his 20th win and Cy Young Award-osity. I can almost hear Fran Healy bleating SO COME OUT TO SHEA! now.
Big winners: David Wright, +17.1%, Justin Turner, +9.4%
Big losers: Collin McHugh, -53.8%, Scott Hairston, -7.9%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Justin Turner two-run homer, bottom 1st, +12.9%
Teh sux0rest play: Pedro Alvarez three-run homer, top 1st, -22.0%
Total pitcher WPA: -54.5%
Total batter WPA: +4.5%
GWRBI!: Garrett Jones RBI fielder's choice/error by Justin Turner, top 2nd