Mets rookie Schwinden loses in MLB debut

Chris Schwinden #63 of the New York Mets

Chris Schwinden #63 of the New York Mets pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field during the first game of a doubleheader. (Sept. 8, 2011) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Mets rookie pitcher Chris Schwinden got a lot of firsts out of the way last night. First major-league start. First strikeout. First loss (unfortunately).

And first time his father has seen him pitch in person as a professional.

Schwinden, 24, allowed five runs in the first three innings and the Mets lost to the Braves, 6-5, in the first game of a doubleheader at a nearly empty Citi Field.

One person who was there, though, was Schwinden's father, Bill. He flew in from Visalia, Calif., in what was supposed to be a surprise. Except Chris had an inkling.

"I kind of felt like my mom and a bunch of friends were being a little fishy," he said. "I kind of caught on. It's nice for him to be here, though."

Schwinden admitted his nerves affected him early and said of his father, "Definitely not the start I wanted to show him."

Was Bill Schwinden disappointed? What do you think?

"I thought it was amazing," Bill said as he watched the second game from a box seat near the home dugout wearing a black Mets cap. "I'm proud of him. After the last couple days, it's been pretty nerve-racking, but to actually see him out on the field and on the mound, I couldn't be more proud of him."

Bill said he would have liked to have brought Chris' mother, too, but the cost of two last-minute tickets to New York was too prohibitive. Chris' mother did get to see him pitch last season for Double-A Binghamton.

That's where Chris started this season and where he was supposed to stay. Schwinden, a 22nd-round draft pick by the Mets in 2008, began the season in the bullpen at Binghamton.

He was promoted to Buffalo for a spot start when the Mets called up Pat Misch to replace the injured Chris Young on April 16. He never went back to Binghamton. He was 8-8 with a 3.95 ERA for Buffalo.

Manager Terry Collins, who was the Mets' minor-league field coordinator last season, was familiar with Schwinden. So when the Mets needed a spot starter for last night's makeup doubleheader, the righthander got the call and was on the Citi Field mound throwing his first big-league pitch at 4:11 p.m.

"This opportunity is unbelievable," he said. "Not a lot of guys get this opportunity. They go through their whole career not smelling this. It's wonderful.

"I'm going to take in everything I can from this and try to learn."

After the rocky start, Schwinden settled down to pitch two scoreless innings before being removed for a pinch hitter. But the Mets could not spare him his first defeat.

After the Braves scored three in the top of the first, Jason Bay hit a grand slam for the Mets in the bottom half to give Schwinden a 4-3 lead.

But Chipper Jones homered leading off the third to tie the score at 4. After a pair of strikeouts, the Braves strung together three singles -- the last a broken-bat bloop to center by Jason Heyward -- to take a 5-4 lead. The Mets never caught up. The Braves won the nightcap, 5-1, as Jones and David Ross drove in two runs apiece.

In Game 1, Schwinden allowed eight hits and walked one with four strikeouts. "The nerves took over a little bit, kind of messed with my mechanics a little bit," he said. "Rushing a little bit. Just a little off balance. Later on in the game I was starting to feel it again and started throwing more strikes and getting guys out."

Schwinden will probably not get another start for the Mets this season. With the five innings last night, he has thrown a career-high 153 2/3.

Said Schwinden's father: "This is quite a jump and quite an accomplishment."

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