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Solid early, McHugh lets costly sixth get away

Astros starter sees command slip vs. Abreu, setting up Dunn's homer

HOUSTON -- Astros starter Collin McHugh had already struck out rookie slugger Jose Abreu twice on Friday night, and in the sixth inning he was one pitch away from getting him again for what would have been a key out in a White Sox rally.

McHugh instead plunked Abreu, putting two runners on base and himself in a perilous situation with slugger Adam Dunn coming to the plate. Dunn made McHugh pay by cranking a three-run homer to right to help the White Sox to a 7-2 win in the series opener at Minute Maid Park.

McHugh had rolled through five scoreless innings, allowing just a hit and three walks, before he was tagged for four runs in the sixth and yanked by manager Bo Porter after 5 1/3 innings in his fifth start with the Astros.

"It looked like he was in complete control there through five innings, and for whatever reason during the sixth, just looked like he lost a little bit of attack," Porter said. "Obviously, the walk and the hit batter before the home run is what really hurts, to put those guys on base for a big bopper like Adam Dunn. He falls behind, and he lays something in there he can put a charge in. Up until then, it looked he was in complete control of the game."

The homer by Dunn ended an 0-for-11 streak and was the 446th of his career, putting him three away from tying Vladimir Guerrero and Jeff Bagwell for 36th on the all-time list.

"You get a good hitter's count, and in that situation, he's throwing the ball really well, and I think he made a mistake, and I was able to hit it," Dunn said.

McHugh (2-2) gave up four runs and three hits with four walks while striking out seven batters. The homer by Dunn was only the second McHugh has allowed this year in 31 innings.

"When you're aggressive and you're putting the pressure on the hitters, they tend to take not as good of swings," he said. "When guys don't take as good of swings, they tend to keep the ball in the park. Both of my catchers have done a really good job of working through lineups like that. It came back to get us tonight, but we're trending in the right direction."

The Astros put runners at second and third with no outs in the fifth inning for George Springer, who scored Jonathan Villar with a grounder to shortstop. Jason Castro singled to left-center one out later to score Jose Altuve and give the Astros a 2-0 lead after five innings.

McHugh struck out Gordon Beckham to start the sixth before walking Conor Gillaspie and hitting Abreu. Dunn turned on a 2-0 pitch and sent it into the upper deck in right field to put the White Sox ahead, 3-2. Dayan Viciedo followed with a double, and McHugh's evening was done.

"Truthfully, I didn't have very good command all night," he said. "I walked four guys from the get-go. I knew my stuff was good today, but my command was spotty at best and it kind of came back to bite me in that inning. You walk a couple of guys in the lineup like this and any one of the six guys in the middle of that order can beat you. Dunn got a good pitch and put a good swing on it."

McHugh and Castro were trying to go in with a fastball when they hit Abreu.

"Obviously, I'd like to get it back," McHugh said. "He's a good hitter, so we wanted to keep him as uncomfortable as possible. He dove into it a little bit and the ball just kept running, and it got him. It was the right pitch, just a game of inches."

Later in the inning, Tyler Flowers hit a single to right on an 0-2 pitch off Josh Zeid to score Viciedo and push the lead to 4-2. The White Sox scored three unearned runs in the eighth inning with Paul Clemens on the mound, including a two-run double by Gillaspie that made it 7-2.

"I felt like we had a couple of at-bats tonight where, even from a staff standpoint, we felt like we were one pitch away from making a quality pitch and the at-bat being over in our favor, and we were not able to do that," Porter said. "We felt there were a couple of pitches in some spots we wish we could probably have back."

The Astros had chances later in the game and finished 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. They had runners at second and third with two outs in the sixth for Springer, who struck out. Dexter Fowler led off the seventh with a walk, but he was doubled off first on a Castro line drive to shortstop.

"When you're hitting with runners in scoring position, you have to be patient and you have to use the whole field," Porter said.

After the Astros chased White Sox starter Jose Quintana (2-3) from the game by running his pitch count to 102 through five innings, Chicago's bullpen held the Astros to two hits in four scoreless innings with five strikeouts.

"[Quintana] struggled and just threw a lot of pitches," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "You start looking at pitch count from him to what their guy was doing. He at least got through it, and he had a couple of tough innings there with guys on and ends up getting out of it."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
Read More: Houston Astros, Collin McHugh