Collin McHugh? More like "McWho."
Who is this journeyman joker the Astros called up in desperation to fill in for Scott Feldman, who was recently placed on the disabled list? A quick search for stats told a grim tale to those who looked; disastrous cups of coffee in 2013 and 2012 with the Mets, and largely middling numbers in the minors.
And, here he was, suddenly, with his 4.50 AAA ERA, about to try to keep the momentum going against the Mariners and Robinson Cano. Surely this wouldn't end well, right? Why would it? These are the Astros; last night was, doubtless, a fluke. That's the only success this city ever sees in sports. The Astros jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first, doing their part. Now to wait for McWho to cough it up.
Not so fast.
Wait a minute, did he just throw 93 MPH? 94? 96!? That can't be right; PitchF/X has him 88-90 with the heater prior to this. And look at that curveball! And the location! Where did this come from?
McHugh was, in a word, perfect. Not technical baseball perfect, but so-good-that-no-one-could-complain perfect. A night after the Astros committed regicide against the King, it was this nobody from AAA who looked like the Cy Young award winner. The Mariners hitters looked like little leaguers; bemused, bedazzled, bewildered, befuddled, baffled and bamboozled; completely, consummately, comprehensively crushed and conquered by Collin's crazy collection of calculatingly-chosen curves, changes and cheese.
Try saying that ten times fast with a lollipop in your mouth and you might have an idea about what facing McHugh on this night must have been like. Fangraphs, if you mouse over the search bar at the top-left of their page, will pop up a box with the names that have been searched for the most recently. Above Albert Pujols, who his his 500th homer today, is Collin McHugh. Believe me, if you were wondering just who this guy is, you weren't alone; seemingly the entire baseball world was taken by Strom, er, storm tonight.
The "who" has been answered, and the "how" was pretty clear as well; nasty breaking balls, mid-90's heat, pinpoint location and a fearless, pound-the-strikezone approach tend to lead to positive outcomes. Now we just need to see if he can do it again, or get somewhere close to it. If he keeps it up, how will they send him back to AAA? How could they?
And while tonight belonged to one man, it shouldn't go without mention that the offense continued to show that regression is, in fact, simply a fact of existence. The Astros' offense won't be great this year, but it will be a heck of a lot better than it has been to start the year, and tonight we saw that again. Throw in that the bullpen looks to be rounding into shape, and things should be better.
A series win! Dark days could still be ahead, but pop the cork for now, and give a toast to Collin McHugh, and the beautiful, baffling serendipity that makes baseball so much fun sometimes.