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McHugh not happy after quality start

Righty allows three runs in seven innings, but gives up nine hits

DETROIT -- A quick glance at Collin McHugh's stat line Friday night shows a decent outing -- three earned runs over seven innings -- but the right-hander was not at all happy with his performance in the 6-2 loss to the Tigers.

McHugh allowed nine hits and one walk, giving up at least one hit in each inning of work. Asked about the night, McHugh was blunt.

"I was pretty bad," he said. "I was pretty bad with the fastball command. Too many cutters. Too many hard-hit balls. I was behind too many batters. They had nine hits in seven innings. Every mistake I made, they were hitting hard. No, I didn't feel very good about it."

Only 17 of McHugh's 30 fastballs went for strikes, according to Brooks Baseball's Pitch f/x. As a result, he threw more cutters and curveballs; 34 of his 46 cutters were strikes (74 percent) and 19 of his 29 curveballs (66 percent).

The three runs McHugh allowed came on one pitch in the third inning, and it was that fastball.

After McHugh struck out Miguel Cabrera for the second out, his first pitch to J.D. Martinez was a curveball hit deep to left field, but it went foul. Bullet dodged? Not quite, as the next pitch from McHugh was an outside fastball that caught too much plate and was hit into the left-field seats for a three-run homer and a 3-2 Detroit lead.

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"That's a huge swing in our direction, where you strike him out and Martinez hits the ball just foul, and you feel like you escaped another thing," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Then he delivers a big blow oppo. There's a reason they're a good-hitting ballclub. They showed that tonight."

The Astros manager was more positive about McHugh's outing than his pitcher was.

"I thought McHugh battled tonight," Hinch said. "He made one or two mistakes. It seemed like every mistake was hit with some authority. They worked him the other way, obviously the big blow from Martinez with the home run in that inning, and they tacked on a few more runs [in the eighth inning]. For McHugh, seven innings, three runs, it was a matter of one swing that took a lot out of his night."

While McHugh gave up at least one hit in every inning, he was able to get out of jams, as Hinch noted. When asked if he could take something positive away from that, McHugh gave a long pause and thought to himself. He wasn't happy with his night, but lasting through seven innings was something worth noting.

"You have to get out of jams if you want to keep pitching and go deep in the game," McHugh said. "If you get guys on base, you have no other choice. I made some pretty good pitches at certain times in today's game, but when we needed to, I needed to make better pitches and execute better."

The loss dropped McHugh to 5-2 on the season. Six of his nine outings this year have been quality starts. The Tigers' offense has been sporadic this season, but it's a formidable lineup from top to bottom, and they got just enough off McHugh to earn the victory.

"They've got guys up and down the lineup who swing the bat well," McHugh said. "They grind out at-bats. They put good swings on balls. They make you pay for mistakes. They're going to do their job, but we have a job to do, too. In this park, three runs is a lot. Their guy did a good job on the mound tonight, threw the ball well. I've got to be better."

Chris Vannini is a contributor to
Read More: Houston Astros, Collin McHugh