It was another lights-out performance by Rays reliever Collin McHugh, who worked three scoreless innings in Sunday’s 5-1 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo, N.Y.
McHugh (2-1, 1.87 ERA, 50 strikeouts in 33-2/3 innings) has allowed just one earned run in his last 28-1/3 innings since returning from the injured list on May 4.
“He has been invaluable to us, absolutely incredible,” Rays left-hander Ryan Yarbrough said. “If he’s not an All-Star … he’s an All-Star to us for what he has done for this team.”
Barring an addition to the American League roster due to injury, McHugh won’t be headed to the All-Star Game in Denver.
“The All-Star break is on my mind for sure,” McHugh said with a laugh. “I never try to think too hard about that stuff. There are a lot of good players around the league who are deserving. I’m pleased to count myself as potentially one of those. But the idea of having four days at home? I’m not going to turn up my nose at that.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash said McHugh’s consistently excellent performances have been among the season’s biggest highlights.
“He is showing elite command and getting ahead of hitters,” Cash said. “His slider has become a pitch that probably most batters know it’s coming … but it’s a really tough pitch to handle. Not many guys are putting it in play. And when they do, it’s tough to do much with it.”
McHugh said he has been positively influenced by the Rays’ organizational pitching philosophy.
“Getting ahead of the batter,” McHugh said. “They preach it here and really hammer that home. They encourage us very strongly to throw strike one. That sets the tone for everything that comes after that.
“You get ahead, get a lot of pop, stay super aggressive … that was my whole goal (against the Blue Jays).”
Rookie third baseman Wander Franco continued his uptick by going 2-for-4 with a double and home run. He also made a spectacular diving play and throw on Yuli Gurriel’s sharp grounder, ending the second inning. That came after Franco opened the second by booting Teoscar Hernandez’s grounder.
“With the error, I think I got a bad bounce,” Franco said through translator Manny Navarro. “After an error, you want to make better plays. When the second ball came through, I knew I had a chance to make up for the mistake earlier.”
Home vs. road
The Rays broke a 10-game road losing streak with Sunday’s victory. Cash wants the Rays to get on a roll as they return home to Tropicana Field, where they are 23-16 overall (and winners of 16 of their last 19).
“You always want to have some sort of advantage and perform well in front of the home crowd,” Cash said. “We want to make the Trop as uncomfortable as possible for the opposition. At the same time, it’s very important for us to play well regardless of where we’re at.”
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Left-hander Rich Hill, who starts Monday night against the Indians, said he has made the adjustments to avoid pitch-tipping gestures, which he said led to a rocky first inning in his previous start against the Nationals. … After beginning the game 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, the Rays finished 3-for-11 overall. The Rays came into Sunday batting .171 (6-for-35) with runners in scoring position during the five-game losing streak and .150 (12-for-80) with RISP during the 10-game road skid. … Cash said he hopes left-hander Josh Fleming (on the injured list with a right calf strain) will be ready to start Wednesday afternoon’s game with the Indians, but he’s waiting at least another day before proclaiming Fleming fit and ready to go.
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