Collin McHugh slides into key role in Rays bullpen

·3 min read

ST. PETERSBURG — The win Collin McHugh earned Saturday for two dazzling innings of relief was a small reward for the impressive work he has done since returning from a back strain that landed him on the injured list.

In 18 innings over 11 appearances, McHugh has allowed one run (for a 0.50 ERA), 10 hits, six walks and has logged 31 strikeouts (of 69 batters, for a 44.9 percentage), working as an opener and multi-inning bridge reliever. Saturday was a prime example, as he faced seven Orioles and struck out five.

“McHugh was awesome,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s got just great feel for the slider right now. He’s picking up strikeouts from righties (and) from lefties. He’s throwing the ball over the plate early. Then that slider he’s featuring right now from the side, it looks like a Frisbee going up there.

“Hitters can’t give up on it and then it just expands and carries out of the zone and looks like a strike for a long time.”

Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier saw enough when McHugh was with the Astros to know how big of a weapon he can be.

“He’s nasty,” Kiermaier said. “I hated facing him back in the day. … He said about a month ago, ‘Don’t let the kid get hot.’ He was kind of joking around. But he meant that at the same time. … I get excited every time he takes that mound because the way he can spin the ball and make it go many different ways.’’

No. 1 clarification of the day

Kiermaier, on why he missed Brett Phillips’ entertaining reaction to being hit by a pitch in the fourth inning:

“I actually didn’t see it right when it happened. I was taking a potty break. I was going pee in the urinal to clear that up. ....That was a No. 1 one by the way. Let’s just be very cordial about that, people. Come on now.”

Medical matters

First baseman Ji-Man Choi played in the second of two extended spring games with no issues from the left groin strain that landed him on the injured list, and he could be activated Sunday or, more likely, Monday. … Starter Chris Archer, out since early April with forearm tightness, threw off the mound for the first time (10 pitches) and will continue to build volume for two weeks, then start facing hitters. … Reliever Chaz Roe, out since an early-April shoulder strain, made his fourth rehab appearance Friday for Triple-A Durham, striking out two in a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 inning.


⋅ Attendance was a Tropicana Field season-high 9,225. But this was only the fourth game since the Rays expanded capacity back to around 20,000, drawing 7,173, 7,616 and 6,211. For the first 28 games capacity was 9,021, which they reached only for the April 9 home opener.

⋅ The Rays have won all five games against the Orioles this season, 11 of the past 12 overall and 10 straight series at the Trop dating to July 17.

⋅ The O’s lost their 14th straight road game overall, their longest such streak since moving to Baltimore in 1954, but only the third-longest such streak in the majors this season, behind the Diamondbacks (19) and Rangers (16).

⋅ Austin Meadows’ fifth-inning single snapped an 0-for-15 stretch.

⋅ Kiermaier logged his 102nd career stolen base, tying Ben Zobrist for third on the Rays’ all-time list. Carl Crawford had 409 and B.J. Upton 232.

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