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Collin McHugh stellar in debut, but Mets get swept by Rockies

Collin McHugh gave up two hits and one

Collin McHugh gave up two hits and one walk and struck out nine in seven shutout inning in his major-league debut with the Mets against the Rockies at Citi Field. (Aug. 23, 2012) Credit: Getty

Not even a stellar performance from a pitcher in his major-league debut could save the Mets from another embarrassing loss Thursday.

Righthander Collin McHugh threw seven scoreless innings, but a fielding mistake by centerfielder Jordany Valdespin in the eighth led to a 1-0 loss as the Rockies completed a four-game sweep at Citi Field.

The Mets, who have lost eight of their last 10 games and are 11-28 since the All-Star break, went 0-for-10 with two intentional walks with runners in scoring position and left 12 men on base against five Colorado pitchers. Rex Brothers (8-2) got the win.

"Getting our ---- kicked night in and night out," Mets catcher Josh Thole said. "That's the bottom line . . . It's a nightmare. It's a nightmare for everybody in this clubhouse."

With one exception: McHugh, an 18th-round pick in the 2008 draft, could barely contain a smile after joining Matt Harvey in pitching phenomenally well in his first big-league start.

McHugh, 25, allowed only two hits -- a double to the first batter he faced and a third-inning single -- walked one and struck out nine. He left with the game scoreless after throwing 100 pitches and received a no-decision.

"The anticipation's the hardest part, for sure," McHugh said. "But once the clock starts ticking and you realize I've done this a thousand times before, you get the ball in your hand and start playing catch."

The only thing he didn't do well was hit, going 0-for-2. The offense could have used his help.

The game was scoreless when Tyler Colvin led off the eighth against Bobby Parnell (2-3) with a line drive to center. Valdespin, the converted second baseman making his fifth start in center, came in before realizing he had to go back.

Too late. The ball went over his head for a triple. Chris Nelson then grounded a single to center through a drawn-in infield.

Valdespin was in the lineup as the leadoff man as Terry Collins tried to jump-start his moribund offense. The Mets have scored two or fewer runs in each of the last six games. "One of the things you've got to be careful of is putting guys out of position in the big leagues because eventually the ball will find them," Collins said. "When you're in a situation like we are, it's going to happen at the wrong time. Which it has."

At least the Mets can point to McHugh and Harvey as signs of hope. "At this stage of the season, you've got to start looking to next year," Collins said. "You've got to start looking at the big picture. Isn't it nice to know that you've got a guy like Matt Harvey, Collin McHugh . . . that down the road are going to be impact guys on your team?"

Harvey, the Mets' No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, struck out 11 on July 26 at Arizona in a winning big-league debut.

McHugh arrived with a lot less fanfare. He was called up to replace the injured Johan Santana after going 2-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 11 starts for Triple-A Buffalo. His last outing also was a scoreless seven-inning effort against Boston's Triple-A affiliate in a game played at Fenway Park.

McHugh also threw six shutout innings at Fenway for Double-A Binghamton in 2011. So he has pitched 20 innings in major-league ballparks and has not been scored upon.

After allowing a leadoff double to Charlie Blackmon and recording his first out on a sacrifice bunt, McHugh struck out Jordan Pacheco looking (with the infield back) and Carlos Gonzalez swinging, both on low-90s fastballs.

DJ LeMahieu singled leading off the third but was cut down trying to steal second by Thole. McHugh then struck out the next two.

McHugh walked Gonzalez with two outs in the fourth before retiring his final 10 batters. He got Wilin Rosario swinging on his last pitch -- a knee-buckling 69-mph curveball that he featured throughout the day.

McHugh's wife came down from Buffalo and his parents, brother and sister attended the game as part of a 13-person contingent that flew up from Atlanta in the morning.

McHugh tried to appear upset about the game's outcome, but there was no masking his delight in his own performance. "It felt great," he said. "I felt comfortable."

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