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Musgrove shows growth with velo, location

Special to MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Joe Musgrove was a hard-luck loser on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, but manager A.J. Hinch gushed over the young right-hander's best start of the season.

In 6 1/3 innings against the A's, the 24-year-old tossed 86 pitches, allowing just one run on five hits. He struck out a season-high six batters, walking one. But a homer he surrendered to Jed Lowrie in the fourth inning on a 3-0 count was enough to put him on the hook for his second loss in Houston's 2-1 defeat.

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HOUSTON -- Joe Musgrove was a hard-luck loser on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, but manager A.J. Hinch gushed over the young right-hander's best start of the season.

In 6 1/3 innings against the A's, the 24-year-old tossed 86 pitches, allowing just one run on five hits. He struck out a season-high six batters, walking one. But a homer he surrendered to Jed Lowrie in the fourth inning on a 3-0 count was enough to put him on the hook for his second loss in Houston's 2-1 defeat.

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"He threw a really good fastball early," Hinch said of Musgrove, who lowered his season ERA from 5.91 to 4.88 on Saturday. "His velocity was up, and his location was very good. The one three-ball count he got into against Lowrie cost him. He got a good pitch to hit in a hitter's count. But overall, it was a really good performance out of Joe.

"At the end, when I took him out, I told him on the mound that he did a great job of doing everything you could ask for. I was very impressed by his control of the game and his ability to pound early with the fastball, and then put them away with a few sliders."

Video: OAK@HOU: Lowrie hammers a solo homer to right field

Musgrove gave up four first-inning runs during his previous outing against the Rays. But after that rocky start, he settled in to pitch five scoreless frames to keep the Astros in striking distance -- retiring 15 of the next 17 batters he faced.

Combined with Saturday's strong outing, Musgrove has given up just one run in his last 11 1/3 innings.

"I left off on a good note in Tampa, and I wanted to carry it over," Musgrove said. "My ability to locate my fastball was huge today. It set up everything and allowed me to use my breaking ball and my offspeed pitches later in the counts to put guys away. It's a good builder to carry into the next outing."

While Houston didn't support Musgrove at the plate, scoring its only run on a Jose Altuve homer in the eighth inning, they did help out in the field. In the fifth with two on and two out, Lowrie roped a hung slider to right field. But a perfect throw from Josh Reddick narrowly beat Chad Pinder to the plate, and catcher Brian McCann applied the tag to end the threat.

"Reddick saved me huge with that play at the plate," Musgrove said. "Lowrie got me on a bad pitch, a slider that got middle. I was lucky that Reddick was able to get me out of the inning there."

Video: OAK@HOU: Reddick nabs Pinder at home on a great throw

Before the game, Hinch spoke about the need to control Musgrove's propensity to surrendering big innings.

"I think him being able to step up and make a pitch to end an inning or end an at-bat in a volatile or high-leverage time is really the next development for him," Hinch said. "When he settles in, he's really good. When he locks in and makes pitches, he's as effective as anyone we have. It's just generally been bigger innings that have piled up on him. He doesn't get nickeled and dimed."

For one start, it's so far, so good.

"This was growth for him," Hinch said. "There was a conviction for him in his fastball tonight, and it can be a real difference maker for him moving forward."

Ben DuBose is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros, Joe Musgrove