By Will Martin
Oh, what a difference a week makes. Last week you were all set to throw the book at yours truly. ‘These Astros are the same lot that will lose 100 games again for a fourth year in a row. Is this all you got after an 0-7 week?’
In a word, NO!
One of the great intangibles one learns to appreciate about the grand old game is the ability to find a diamond in the rough. A player deemed a journeyman elsewhere with little luck or fanfare who for some reason is able to make good as the stars will align elsewhere. Such is the case for this Collin McHugh.
In a week where the Astros went 4-3 and allowed one game to get away with a walk-off homer in Seattle in the 9th on getaway day the Astros were able to take two of three in the Emerald City before coming home to start a ten game homestand, their first of two in 2014 against their nemesis the Oakland A’s for four games.
After getting blown out in the first two games 10-1 and 12-5 Houston came back to take the last two games of the set 7-6 and 5-1. Easter Sunday was a special outing for Collin McHugh as he followed up a 12 strikeout gem in Marinerland with a 2-hit performance and a 5-1 victory at Minute Maid Park. Only a single in the 1st and 9th were what was allowed by the journeyman pitcher.
2-0 with an 0.59 era as a call-up fill-in for Scott Feldman on bereavement leave. 19 strikeouts in 15 and a third innings. McHugh is also the first Astro hurler to pitch at least 6 and 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and allowing one run or less. A much needed boost for the Houston rotation. Now you must find a place for him in the rotation as a #2 to Feldman.
“It feels great,” McHugh said. “First of all, it feels good to get another win against the A’s. They’re a good team. To be able to take two from them, especially at home and even the series and build some momentum, it’s huge.”
Also huge was retiring 19 batters in a row before plunking a batter in the 9th, getting the yank after 114 pitches to a nice ovation. Bo Porter pleasantly surprised by this development.
“He put himself in a really good spot,” Porter said. “Performance pretty much speaks for itself. This guy has earned the right to get the ball next turn.”
Any second thoughts about pulling him in the 9th because of pitch count?
“That was an outstanding performance,” Porter said. “When we sent him out there in the ninth, it was with the complete hope that he was going to be able to finish what he started. That was tremendous, attacking the strike zone with all three of his pitches. To pitch that well against a really good-hitting Oakland lineup speaks volumes to Collin and the way him and Corporan worked today.”
Carlos Corporan summed things up in five words.
“He’s the man right now,” Astros catcher Carlos Corporan said.
With the 4-3 week the Houston Astros continue to take baby steps for the better as they improve their record to 9-18. With a one game left in April a chance to build on that after only playing to a 7-19 mark in March-April 2013.
With a home run hit by Jose Altuve Easter Sunday the Astros have hit 29 for the year 4th best in the AL. When they hit a homer in a game their record is 9-7. 0-10 if held within the ballpark.
Jose Altuve against lefties continues to hit at a blistering .483 pace. Not since August 16th of last year the gritty second baseman made an error, a span of 61 games error free in 283 chances.
After suffering an injury early on Dexter Fowler has caught fire. Currently on an eight game hitting streak with 11 hits in 36 at bats (.306) with an on-base percentage of .432
Only two other pitchers in Astros history have registered 19 strikeouts in their first two starts. JR Richard in 1971 and Randy Johnson in 1998.
The Astros now start the interleague part of their schedule with the first of two against the Washington Nationals. A team the Astros have a career 243-201 record against since their days in Montreal.
Per mutual agreement starter Lucas Harrell was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 28th for cash considerations and a player to be named later. This after an 0-3 beginning and an era of 9.49
“I’m excited,” Harrell told MLB.com “It’s a new opportunity. It’s a fresh start, a chance to go out there and work on some of the things I wasn’t doing well, which was causing me to be unsuccessful with the Astros. Hopefully I’ll get it all corrected and make it back to the big leagues.”
The Astros with this new kid Collin McHugh may have now found themselves a nice potential gem for the starting rotation and make May an even better month for Bo Porter and company.
4/30 vs National 7:10 p.m.
5/2 vs Mariners 7:10 p.m.
5/3 vs Mariners 3:10 p.m.
5/4 vs Mariners 1:10 p.m.