McHugh was roughed up by the Mariners in the Astros' 8-1 loss at Minute Maid Park, giving up eight runs and nine hits with only one strikeout in three innings. Seattle tagged him for five runs in the first inning, capped by a three-run homer by Logan Morrison, who added a two-run shot in the third.
"They made every pitch sort of hard contact -- they put in play and did some damage," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He didn't control damage. That's the story of the game. The big blow, Morrison's first homer, he's almost out of that inning with a two-run inning and then all of a sudden it turns into a five-run inning. That's a difficult thing to come back from, and a couple of innings later they get three runs. Big innings we didn't control and they did a good job piling on to control the game."
McHugh, who burst onto the scene last year when he went 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA in 25 starts as rookie in 2014, went 4-0 with a 3.23 ERA in his first four starts this year, but is 2-3 with a 6.86 ERA in his last seven starts.
"You got to fix something," he said. "I got to figure something out. It's frustrating because my stuff's not very sharp right now. But my body feels good, my arm feels good. I feel good in between starts. That's just a matter of kind of getting over the hump, getting back to where we need to go. I think I'm close, it's just today is one of those days, it gets away from you real fast."
Hinch said he and pitching coach Brent Strom spoke initially in the dugout about examining McHugh's mechanics, specifically his posture, when he's in the windup vs. when he's in the stretch. Hinch said McHugh was leaving some pitches up and dragging his arm.
"We've got to find a correction for him and get him a little bit more aggressive and a little bit more towards the hitter," he said. "The first at-bat of the game, it looked like he was pretty sharp and then they hit a couple of singles. I think the big hit that inning was Morrison's homer. If he pops that up, you go from two runs in the top of the first -- energy is still alive -- to a five-run inning. Five-run innings are a punch in the gut to him."
McHugh wasn't in the mood for what-ifs when it came to Morrison's blasts.
"I mean, he didn't miss either of those," he said. "There was no chance either of those were staying in the park. If a lot of things go differently, it would've been better, but they were hitting the ball well. I was missing a lot of spots and it got out of hand early."