McHugh can't cool off Red Sox's bats

McHugh can't cool off Red Sox's bats

HOUSTON -- Two years removed from the day he burst onto the scene with a magnificent 12-strikeout performance for his first big league win in his Astros debut in Seattle, right-hander Collin McHugh is searching for answers on how to regain his 2014-15 form after a rough outing Friday night against the Red Sox.

McHugh lost for the third time in four starts this season by allowing five earned runs and 10 hits in just four innings in the Astros' 6-2 loss to Boston - their fourth loss in a row and eighth in their last 10 games. Just four starts into the season, McHugh has a 7.56 ERA.

"I wasn't good today from the get-go," McHugh said. "My command wasn't very good. I didn't have a lot of bite on a lot of my pitches and they made me pay for it. They put swings on it and got guys on base and seemed to get a guy around every inning."

McHugh allowed the first four batters of the game to reach and did a good job minimizing damage after the Red Sox loaded the bases with no outs and having already pushed a run across. A Hanley Ramirez sac fly made it 2-0, but the Red Sox chipped away with a run in the second, third and fourth to take a 5-0 lead and send McHugh to an early exit.

"You've got to be aggressive with them," McHugh said. "They're not afraid to wait you out. I threw a lot of pitches tonight, but I threw a lot of strikes, too. I threw 90 pitches and probably threw 65 strikes, but they've got to be quality strikes. At this level, you can't float pitches in there. You can't miss over the heart of the plate with good hitters like that. We did too much of that tonight."

Swinging at strikes and making pitchers work is a hallmark of the Red Sox of the last few years, and they certainly took a toll on McHugh. Boston banged out 15 hits for the second game in a row, tying a season high.

"They just hit their way to a win, and it started with the first hitter of the game," manager A.J. Hinch said of Mookie Betts, who led off the game with the first of his two triples and finished 4-for-5.

As the losses and frustration mount, McHugh said the Astros will break out of their funk and get back to winning baseball.

"Until then, you can believe that everybody in this locker room is going to be grinding, everybody is going to be putting the work in," he said. "Nobody is going to be sitting around and pouting. That's the not the nature of this team. That's not what A.J. preaches, and that's not what we're about."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.