When Dillon Gee cracked the New York Mets’ major league roster in September 20110, there weren’t many who saw him as a permanent fixture in a starting rotation. Scouts yelled that he had the potential to be a number five starter on a mediocre team, but for a team that wished to contend he’d be best served as a long reliever or spot starter.
Gee proved many scouts wrong over the course of his first two full major league seasons, pitching to a 4.65 FIP in 2011 before improving that measure to 3.71 in 2012. He was able to cut his walks and increase his strikeouts all while taking control of his repertoire and looking like a strong number three or four starter on any team.
Unfortunately for Gee, a career-threatening blood clot cost him the final half of his 2012 season and up until Thursday when threatened with losing his spot in the starting rotation, he was unable to perform. Thursday earned him a longer stay in the rotation as he struck out a career-high 12 batters while allowing only one run in 7 1/3 innings pitched.
Today’s starter Collin McHugh possesses many of the same qualities as Dillon Gee: He’s a control pitcher who has the knack to be knocked around if he can’t mix his breaking balls with his fastball. He can’t throw in the mid-to-high-90s to blow hitters away, but when effective can be extremely dominant. Until Jonathon Niese was injured, McHugh was looking like the most likely candidate to be demoted when Zack Wheeler was called up. Now, McHugh has the opportunity to make the most of his spot start to earn a longer stay in the major leagues.
His start doesn’t just mean survival for himself, but rather survival for the club. The Mets find themselves in a must-win situation this afternoon after dropping the first game of a three-game series to the Miami Marlins on Friday night. Coming off the heels of a five game winning streak, losing two in a row to the worst team in baseball would prove to be a tremendous step backward for the long term legitimacy of the club.
It’s one game in a marathon 162 game season, so it’s easy to assert that no single game is a “must-win” in May. With Matt Harvey looming tomorrow afternoon; However, this game is a must win for the McHugh and the Mets.
Photo Credit: Michael Baron