Astros' starters making strong statement
McHugh quiets Yanks, adds to rotation's stellar stretch
NEW YORK -- When Mike Fiers threw his no-hitter on Friday against the Dodgers in Houston, it was just another outing in an impressive run through the rotation for Astros starting pitchers -- a run that was continued by Collin McHugh on Wednesday.
McHugh picked up his 14th win by holding the Yankees two runs and five hits while striking out eight in 6 1/3 innings, sending the Astros to a 6-2 victory, their seventh in their past nine games. Six different starters have taken the ball the past six games, and each has been terrific.
"We're throwing the ball well," McHugh said. "The second time through against a lot of these teams, we've got a good game plan and we've been fortunate enough to execute well. For us, it's important down the stretch. If you can pitch and play defense, timely hitting will win you some ballgames, and every ballgame means a lot down the stretch."
The Astros lead the American League in ERA at 3.30, including 2.06 in 21 games since Aug. 4. The starters have allowed two runs or fewer in a franchise-record nine consecutive games, the longest such streak in the Majors since the Pirates in 1992. The last AL team to have a streak that long was Baltimore in 1974.
"It's been nice," manager A.J. Hinch said. "I don't know if it's the extra rest or the momentum, but they're trying to all out-do each other. There's a little competitiveness in there. I don't really care what the reason is, it's just they continue on to get to the next guy and put up quality start after quality start. There's really nobody in there that deserves not to be in the rotation. I think that's the good part, they're all challenging each other to keep getting the opportunity, and that's fun for me to have."
The Astros went with a six-man rotation after calling up Lance McCullers a week ago, and Hinch will mix and match the starters the rest of the way. Fiers, for example, won't pitch until Saturday, giving him a week of rest following his 134-pitch no-hitter.
McHugh said the starting pitching success begins with 15-game winner Dallas Keuchel.
"When he sets the tone, everybody wants to go out and do at least that," he said. "You don't want to be the guy who is the weak link in the chain. I think we've done a really good job of just building on what everybody is doing, no matter who's getting in there."
McHugh (14-7) has been terrific in August, going 2-2 with a 1.89 ERA in five starts. Since June 18, he's lowered his ERA to 3.92 from 5.04.
"I've always taken a lot of pride in preparing my body well and to try to prepare mentally to be better at the end than I was at the beginning," he said. "I don't know whether it's willing yourself to do it a little bit better or not, but we've been fortunate to execute a little bit better this last time around."