McHugh sharp, but burned by long ball

Righty strikes out 9 but surrenders 3 solo homers

April 27th, 2019

HOUSTON --  didn’t want to hear about how well the ball was coming out of his hand compared to his previous start five days earlier in Arlington. He wasn’t interested in answering questions about pitching better than his line may have indicated.

McHugh, coming off a career-worst start, struck out nine batters in 5 2/3 innings but couldn’t overcome solo homers by Francisco Lindor, Carlos Gonzalez and Leonys Martin in a 6-3 loss to the Indians on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

“The results speak for themselves,” said McHugh, who took a no-decision. “You give up homers, [and] it’s hard to win games.”

Two of the three homers came immediately after the Astros had scored, which was the most frustrating development for McHugh. Gonzalez’s homer in the fourth tied the game at 2 and Martin’s in the fifth tied it at 3. Lindor smacked a two-run homer off reliever Josh James in the ninth to stretch the lead to 6-3.

“They took some good swings,” McHugh said. “Lindor stayed back just enough on that slider. CarGo got me on a solid heater in and then Leonys on a slider that was one of the worst ones I threw today, but he put a really good swing on it.

“It’s really frustrating because they were all after innings we put up some runs. Those shutdown innings are really important as a pitcher, especially a starting pitcher, to try to throw up another zero and let our guys bang like they’ve been doing all season.”

McHugh, who was rocked for a career-high 10 runs (nine earned) in his previous start Sunday against the Rangers, retired eight of the first nine batters he faced -- six by strikeout -- before Lindor homered to right field. It was Lindor’s 100th career homer.

McHugh had a much better feel for his slider and said his cutter was his least effective pitch. That’s typically a good mixture for McHugh when he can throw them for strikes.

“Just a mistake here or there, where they could get the barrel to it,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “They hit some solo homers right when they would take the lead. Good outing, but he’s not going to leave the field feeling good about it just because of the homers. Certainly, [it] was a bounce back from last time.”

The game was still within reach when McHugh left, but Hector Rondon gave up a go-ahead double to Tyler Naquin in the seventh before the Indians padded the lead against James in the ninth. Houston had Cleveland starter Corey Kluber on the ropes the first two innings but couldn’t break through.

“They just kind of kept pecking away with solo homers and then Lindor hits the separating homer,” Hinch said. “That’s a tough part of the night.”