Former waiver pickup McHugh keeps winning
Astros righty earns fourth straight victory, leads Majors with 20 since Aug. 1, 2014
HOUSTON -- Collin McHugh came to the Astros off waivers with a career record of 0-8 and two consecutive seasons with an ERA above 7.00.
How he's transformed himself into a pitcher who's tied for the American League lead in wins with 13 after Sunday's 4-1 rubber-game victory over the D-backs is hard for even McHugh to answer.
"It's hard to really put into words to think about where it came from, what my first calendar year looked like in Major League Baseball versus this one," McHugh said. "It's really been a blessing to play on a good team like this, with a good group of guys and the organization giving me the opportunity they have to put their faith in me every five days. Credit goes to them, credit goes to the people where I am now."
His 13th win -- and fourth in as many starts -- was nearly a carbon copy of the others in this streak. He's been far from dominant, allowing 11 hits in six innings against Texas on July 17, and hasn't kept runners off the basepaths, seen Sunday when he stranded seven D-backs in as many innings.
Those runners never advance far, though.
"I think when Collin's throwing strikes like that and our defense is on our toes, Collin is confident he can make pitches and he can do it with any pitch he has," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "He has a lot of weapons in his arsenal, and when you see that kind of execution, where he can push guys off the plate and climb when he needs to … there's so many different ways he can attack the hitter [that] when he can execute his pitches, he's hard to hit."
For example, McHugh turned the Arizona lineup over in the seventh with one out and the potential tying run coming to the plate in leadoff hitter Ender Inciarte. He induced a weak popup to Jose Altuve before fanning Yasmany Tomas to quell the threat.
McHugh had pulled a similar feat in the fifth, when he struck out both Inciarte and Tomas to strand two more runners. He held the top third of the Arizona lineup to an 0-for-11 day with four strikeouts.
"He had some finish fastballs today against some really big at-bats where he reared back and had a little extra on his fastball and got strikeouts," Hinch said. "Those are difficult things to do."
McHugh's streak has him among baseball's elite in terms of wins. He's the winningest pitcher in the Majors since Aug. 1, 2014, posting a 20-5 record with a 3.47 ERA. He's teamed with Dallas Keuchel to give the Astros their first pair of 13-game winners since Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte in 2006.
And as Houston continues its playoff push, McHugh's won seven of his past nine starts and allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight of the nine.
"We've kind of gotten into a little groove, myself and both the catchers, I think they have a good idea of what I'm doing well and what I'm struggling with," McHugh said. "They've done a really good job of guiding me along through some tough games, and there have been some tough games in those decisions, so today was no different."