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8-inning start from McHugh huge for Astros

Righty gives club distance day after bullpen was called on early

HOUSTON -- Described by Astros manager A.J. Hinch, Collin McHugh is a perfectionist who becomes agitated when he doesn't execute his pitches precisely.

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"Didn't have to be too hard on himself today," Hinch quipped after Houston's 3-1 win against the Yankees on Sunday.

For a second straight start, McHugh was outstanding, lasting eight innings and scattering only two hits while striking out eight. He retired 17 of the final 18 batters he faced, and the only batter to reach second base against him was Stephen Drew, who advanced after McHugh threw a wild pitch in the third.

McHugh compensated for below-average fastball command with his curveball early in the game, then moved to his cutter for the rest of the way.

"Being able to throw that in different counts and move it around the plate a little bit, I think it opened up some options even not having the great fastball today," McHugh said. "I have them the fourth game in the series and I think it works in our favor, being able to know the hitters a little bit, knowing their tendencies, what they're trying to do, not trying to do."

McHugh became just the sixth pitcher in the American League to reach nine wins, joining teammate Dallas Keuchel. The Astros are the only AL team to have two nine-game winners.

The eight-inning effort was especially important Sunday as the Astros' bullpen was taxed heading into the game after Brett Oberholtzer's early ejection on Saturday forced four relievers to throw 7 2/3 innings.

"I think our guys needed a rest," Hinch said. "The quality that came out of it, it's not just like he logged innings today, he logged innings while using his best stuff. That's a tough lineup to get through and a lot of damage that could be done. Just a really, really good pitching performance."

McHugh said while he was cognizant of the bullpen issues heading into his start, the goal for any starter is to work eight or nine innings and be able to hand the ball to a closer -- just as he did Sunday to Luke Gregerson, who recorded his 18th save.

"Obviously the bullpen kind of took a beating yesterday and they work their butts off," McHugh said. "They know what they're doing back there and it's our job to keep them back in the bullpen as long as possible, so that's what I try to do every time out."

Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for
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