The 30-year-old was a starter that season and cruised through five scoreless innings in a September game against the Astros but was knocked out in the sixth after allowing four runs and four straight hits.
"I pitched that inning. I was making good pitches," Lugo recalled. "And when you execute a pitch, you shouldn't give up good hits. Maybe a little bloop or a ground ball up the middle or something. But their whole approach changed."
As the pitcher explained, the struggles during the third time through the order caused Mets officials to tell him one day later he shouldn't be a starter. It's resulted in almost exclusively a bullpen role over the past two seasons.
"If I could've finished a shutout against the Astros that game," he said, "who knows where I could be?"
Of course, Lugo's struggles as a starter went beyond the rough outing against Houston. He finished the year as a starter with five more appearances, but consistency was a problem. Two games later, he allowed seven earned runs in three innings in a loss to the Chicago Cubs.
In 31 career starts, the right-hander has just a 4.06 ERA with 138 strikeouts in 168.1 innings. He has been undoubtably better as a reliever, producing a 2.52 ERA in 178.1 career innings out of the bullpen, adding 199 strikeouts in this role.
He became the Mets' most reliable reliever in 2019, producing a 2.70 ERA while saving six games and pitching in a number of high-leverage situations.
Still, he believes a better performance against the Astros three years ago could've led to a long career as a starter.
Former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Mike Bolsinger had a similar claim and even filed a lawsuit against the Astros after a poor game against the team in 2017 led to his release and end to his MLB career.
An MLB investigation found Houston had illegally used technology to steal signs from pitchers, giving them an unfair advantage at the plate.