By Brittany Ghiroli and Brian McTaggart
HOUSTON -- Collin McHugh overcame a four-run second inning and the Astros tied a season high by scoring five runs in the third, including back-to-back homers by Evan Gattis and Luis Valbuena off rookie Mike Wright, to beat the Orioles, 6-4, on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
McHugh (6-2) won for the first time in three starts by allowing four runs on six hits in seven innings, retiring 15 of the final 16 batters he faced. He faced the minimum of 18 hitters outside the second inning, when the Orioles batted around and, with the help of a two-run triple by Ryan Flaherty, took a four-run lead.
"I was sitting in the dugout after that one inning and really had two choices -- either sulk and be [mad] that you gave up the lead again early, or you believe that this team is going to come back, which we've proven over and over and over again," McHugh said.
After Wright (2-1) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second, the Astros batted around in the third, scoring five runs on six hits to take a one-run lead. Gattis followed Preston Tucker's RBI single with his 12th homer, a three-run shot that tied the score, and Valbuena homered to right two pitches later.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED McHugh rebounds: McHugh, who scuffled in May, teetered on the brink of disaster in the second inning, when he gave up four runs and five hits, including a two-run triple by Flaherty, before righting the ship. He held the O's hitless over his final five innings and threw a season-high 111 pitches.
"If I'd have said he was going to go seven innings after about the first hour of this game, I think we all would have been a little bit surprised, himself included," manager A.J. Hinch said. "For him to battle through that was pretty good." More >
Wright loses the lead: After a stagnant offense was able to muster up a four-run second inning, the O's watched their lead quickly disappear. The Astros hit three straight one-out singles -- including one on a tailor-made double-play ball that took an unusual hop and bounced over second baseman Steve Pearce -- and Wright allowed back-to-back homers. The end result was a five-run frame that gave Houston the lead for good.
"I put myself in a bad situation to start with a 2-0 [count] and gave up a hit. It would have been huge to get that [double play], but I can't constantly rely on [that]," Wright said. "I got myself in a bad situation. If I get that, who knows, but it's a tough situation to be in."
Wright, who pitched a combined 14 1/3 scoreless innings in his first two starts, has lasted just five innings in each of his last two. He was charged with a season-high five earned runs on Tuesday.
"Mike made a lot of mistakes with his breaking ball tonight," manager Buck Showalter said. "I don't think they hit one ball hard off his fastball all night. That's a lesson learned. He's been very good for us. The ball is hit hard, but that's part of it. When you are not going well, those hops go against you." More >
Back-to-back HRs power Astros: There's no quicker way to wipe out a four-run deficit than a couple of long homers. The red-hot Gattis blasted a long three-run homer to left field to tie the score at 4 in the third, and Valbuena followed with a solo shot to right field to put the Astros ahead and send Houston to 20-0 when hitting multiple homers.
"Those are both two really big home runs," Hinch said. "Gattis, obviously, got a hanging changeup and put a lot of energy back in our dugout. You don't see nine hitters come to the plate too often and we saw it twice tonight, once against us and once for us. We just had one more run than them when Luis hit the home run." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Astros reliever Pat Neshek hasn't allowed a run in his last 16 appearances. He has started the season without allowing a walk in a club-record 24 consecutive games. The last Major League pitcher to do that was Mark Eichhorn in 1991 (30 games without a walk).
"The team's playing together, we're finding ways to score runs, the pitching is coming through when it needs to. Collin had a little rough inning out there and he came back and battled and threw a heck of a game, and the bullpen took care of the rest and the guys got us some rest." -- Astros closer Luke Gregerson, who earned his 15th save
"Nothing really seems to go our way right now, but you look at the division and we're still three, four games back, so it's not time to hit the panic button yet. We haven't gotten hot yet as a team, and it's still early." -- Pearce, on the Orioles' fourth consecutive loss
WHAT'S NEXT Orioles: Baltimore will send Miguel Gonzalez to the mound at 8:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Gonzalez is 5-3 with a 3.48 ERA and coming off a fantastic outing against the Rays in which he went eight innings.
Astros:Lance McCullers makes his fourth Major League start when the Astros face the Orioles at 7:10 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. He's struck out 18, allowed 14 hits and walked six in 15 innings. He's the first Astros pitcher to strike out at least five batters in his first three starts since J.R. Richard in 1971.