NEW YORK -- It's hard to sugarcoat an 8-1 loss in a postseason game, but if there is one silver lining to the Astros' defeat at the hands of the Yankees in Game 3 on Monday night, it's this: Collin McHugh saved Houston's bullpen, pitching four shutout innings and retiring 12 of the 13 hitters he faced.
So even though the Astros' lead was cut to 2-1 in the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World, their top relievers were spared thanks to McHugh's effort.
:: ALCS schedule and coverage ::
"It was the job that needed to be done. We were down pretty big. It's my job to get outs. I focus on getting one at a time, giving our guys a chance to chip away," McHugh said. "I wanted to get outs and save some more guys in the bullpen. We have some great one-inning, two-inning arms down there. So to be able to get a couple of innings in, save [the bullpen] for when the game is tight -- that's what my job was."
McHugh's offspeed pitches -- curveball and slider -- were effective. His fastball command was a little spotty. That was probably expected considering McHugh hadn't pitch since Oct. 1. The 30-year-old right-hander was not on the roster against the Red Sox in the AL Division Series presented by Doosan. Houston felt it needed no more than 11 pitchers for the five-game series. As McHugh puts it, he helped "cheer in a lot of runs in that series."
But the Astros needed McHugh on the mound for the ALCS against the Yanks and not in the dugout as a cheerleader. Houston was down 8-0 in the fifth inning -- mostly due to three-run homers by Todd Frazier and Aaron Judge -- when manager A.J. Hinch asked McHugh to stem the tide.
"[McHugh] is a good matchup with these guys, could spin his breaking ball tonight on a cold night to pitch," Hinch said. "And really saved our 'pen."
• Dress for the ALCS: Get Astros postseason gear
Hinch was hoping that right-hander Charlie Morton would go deep into the game like teammates Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander did the first two games, respectively. But Morton lasted only 3 2/3 innings and allowed seven of the eight runs.
McHugh ended up throwing more innings than the starter, allowing zero hits in the process. Perhaps most important is that Hinch didn't have to use Chris Devenski and Ken Giles, his top two relievers. Neither has pitched since Game 1 on Friday, and they will be well-rested for Game 4.
"In this series, everything matters. Anything that [McHugh] could do to save us is great," catcher Evan Gattis said. "He threw everything at everybody with good command. He stopped the bleeding. It was impressive."