You are forgiven if you sneered last winter when the Astros claimed pitcher Collin McHugh on waivers from Colorado. Typical roster flotsam with a career record of 0-8 and an 8.94 ERA in 15 games the past two years for the Mets and Rockies. Tuesday night in chilly Seattle, McHugh made the front office look like geniuses as he spun 6-2/3rd innings of three-hit, 12-strikeout shutout ball at the Mariners for a 5-2 victory to tie Houston's longest winning streak of the year (2).
McHugh: Shocking Houston debut
(c) Associated Press
The slender McHugh made the M's look like, well, the Astros in sending them to their eighth straight defeat and to within 1/2 game of the division basement occupied by those same Astros. McHugh mixed a fastball, slider and change-up to near perfection, keeping the Seattle hitters off-stride all night.
Some might question why Manager Bo Porter gave McHugh the hook in the seventh after only 89 pitches. The answer is the Astros use the piggyback system in the minors so McHugh wasn't stretched out enough to go a complete game. As a late call-up for Scott Feldman who had been placed on the disabled list the day before, McHugh had no time to build more stamina.
Remember Kevin Chapman, the lefty reliever who couldn't get through an appearance without runs scoring on him? He was sent down to the minors and replaced by veteran Raul Valdes. The new lefty immediately put a man on when he came on in the seventh and then gave up a two-run blast to Justin Smoak.
Jason Castro greeted Erasmo Ramirez with a two-run homer in the first and Khris Karter followed in the second with his first bomb of the year, hugging the left field line all the way out of Safeco Field. Matt Dominguez added his own solo shot to center in the seventh and Karter returned with an RBI single in the eighth. The offensive explosion by Karter raised his batting average for the season all the way up to .148.
The Astros try for an improbable road sweep on Wednesday in a getaway matinee special. Jarred Cosart (1-2), who has been Jeckyll and Hyde so far for Houston, will pitch against The Other Chris Young (0-0) in a 2:40 Central showdown for the bottom of the American League and all the momentum that comes with it.
Only 10,000 showed up in Seattle and the Astros - used to such emptiness - donned their rally ski caps to get McHugh his first major league win. Could the Mariners out-Astro the Astros this year and dethrone the Champions of Suck for the overall first draft pick? That's a story line we may be following all season long.