By Brian McTaggart and Dargan Southard
DENVER -- Behind Carlos Correa, the Astros' offense showed up in full force once again and Collin McHugh was stellar after the first inning, leading Houston to a fifth consecutive win, 8-4 over the Rockies on Thursday afternoon at Coors Field. Houston (40-28) became the American League's first team to 40 wins.
Correa stole three bases, including third base twice, becoming the second-youngest player in the past 100 seasons (behind Rickey Henderson) with three steals in a game. George Springer, Correa, Preston Tucker and Chris Carter went a combined 7-for-19 at the top of the order.
"When you get your leadoff guy [Springer] getting on base a lot to set the tone, you know it's going to be a good game," Correa said. "We can score a lot of runs when that happens."
Tucker and Carter snapped a 3-3 tie with back-to-back RBI doubles in the fifth. That was the final damage off right-hander David Hale (2-2), who gave up 10 hits and five runs over five innings. It was Hale's shortest outing of the year in five starts.
"It's not a secret; even if I don't say it, everybody knows that if we don't pitch, we're not going to win games," Carlos Gonzalez said. "Simple as that. But it's not like the offense is doing very well. I think we should be able to score more runs against the pitchers we've faced, but it's not happening."
Houston struck first on a first-inning home run by Tucker -- his second drive in as many games. But Gonzalez answered in the bottom half of the frame, launching a three-run homer off McHugh (7-3) that gave Colorado a 3-1 lead. McHugh, however, gave up just two hits after the opening frame, finishing with four hits and three runs allowed over six innings.
Pinch-hitter Domingo Santana provided plenty of insurance with a three-run homer off Scott Oberg in the eighth. It was Santana's first career Major League homer.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Correa dazzles with speed: Correa, 20 years and 269 days old, reached on a fielder's choice in the third inning and stole third before scoring on a Carter single. He walked and stole second in the fifth before scoring on a Tucker double, then he stole third in the seventh after hitting a leadoff double. Henderson enjoyed his record-setting three-steal day at 20 years and 241 days old.
"He's getting on base for me, and I'm getting a lot of opportunities to drive him in," said Tucker, who hits behind Correa. "I knew he would hit. I think the question was how long it would take, and you know he hasn't skipped a beat. It's pretty impressive, and I think everyone's really noticing him." More >
Stranded ducks: The Rockies appeared to have something brewing in the third after a Troy Tulowitzki single and a Gonzalez walk put two on with no outs. But McHugh struck out Nolan Arenado and Ben Paulsen in succession on just seven pitches, then retired Michael McKenry on a flyout to end the threat. Colorado finished the day 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.
"We had some opportunities," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We've been real good with runners in scoring position most of the year, one of the best in baseball. But we didn't get the big hit today." More >
McHugh shakes off early troubles: If anyone needed a quality start, it was McHugh. After giving up Gonzalez's homer, McHugh shut down the Rockies in the next five innings to pick up just his second win since May 22. He allowed four hits and five walks, striking out eight.
"I've said this a couple times in his outings: 'If I would have told you 2 1/2 hours ago that you were going to go six strong innings, you wouldn't have believed me,' and I think we all would have said [that]," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "To not give up any hits, really, after that [third] inning was key." More >
All the K's: Although he's not known for a high strikeout rate, Hale racked them up on Thursday. He struck out nine Astros, which tied a career high that he set in his Major League debut on Sept. 13, 2013. Hale punched out at least one batter in every inning, and he struck out the side in the fourth. The Rockies' pitching staff finished with 17 punchouts, which set the franchise record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game.
"I couldn't even feel my footsteps. I guess I was flying. Everything was just emotional." -- Santana, on hitting his first career homer in the eighth inning
"I think they aren't getting enough credit. I feel like we're talking, 'Oh, you guys just got beat by the Astros,' but that's not the case. They're a good team. They're in first place in a tough division." -- Tulowitzki on Houston, which finished its first season sweep of the Rockies
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Astros have hit more homers (97) this year than they did in the entire 2011 season (95). Carlos Lee led that year's team with 18 homers.
Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick left the game in the eighth inning with left hamstring discomfort and is day to day. He felt the discomfort while trying to leg out an infield hit in the eighth and wound up with a sacrifice.
"It feels tight," Marisnick said. "I felt a little something in there. I guess we'll see how it feels [Friday] and go from there."
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Rookie right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (3-0, 2.00 ERA) will make his seventh Major League start when the Astros face the Mariners at 9:10 p.m. CT on Friday. McCullers threw five hitless innings on Sunday against the Mariners, walking four and striking out four. His 40 strikeouts represent a club record for a pitcher's first six career games.
Rockies: At 6:40 p.m. MT on Friday, Colorado will face the Brewers for the first time since sweeping them in a season-opening series. In those three games, the Rockies outscored Milwaukee, 20-6, including a 10-0 rout on Opening Day. Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (4-2, 4.91 ERA), who pitched for the Brewers from 2004-06, will get the ball in the series opener.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. Dargan Southard is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.