Astros happy with Gattis' return behind plate

Hinch, McHugh laud catcher for his performance in first start since 2014

Astros happy with Gattis' return behind plate

CHICAGO -- Not much makes Astros slugger Evan Gattis uneasy, but he couldn't help but feel a bit of anxiety in the minutes leading up to his start at catcher in Thursday night's 2-1 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Gattis, making his first start behind the plate since Sept. 28, 2014, when he was with the Braves, looked comfortable catching eight innings in addition to going 2-for-3 with a homer.

Gattis, who has been used primarily as designated hitter since coming to the Astros prior to the 2015 season, drew raves from starting pitcher Collin McHugh, who had one of his best games of the year, and manager A.J. Hinch, a former catcher who tutored Gattis at the position.

"It was good after the first pitch," Gattis said. "I tried to calm down and just tried to keep my angst. A couple of times I went to my knee and it might have cost us a pitch or two. Other than that, it was really good. Collin McHugh, he threw really good and against this lineup. I'm especially impressed with the [sixth] inning we stranded [Adam] Eaton at third. That was awesome. Moving forward, we got the hardest one out of the way."

The White Sox stole a pair of bases with Gattis behind the plate, but they were both on pitches in the dirt. McHugh allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings with Gattis calling the shots.

McHugh's seven innings of work

"The story of today is Evan Gattis," McHugh said. "He did a really good job behind the dish. I know a lot of people haven't had a chance to see him [because] it's been a couple of years since he's been back there, but he's solid. He's a big league catcher and everybody needs to understand that and recognize that.

"He did a really phenomenal job tonight, both calling the game and blocking. I didn't really give him much of a chance on a couple of stolen bases. He can do it. He's a big league backstop back there and obviously we knew what he can do with the bat. He had a great day today."

Gattis said he told McHugh his hitting was going to be secondary in the series finale, but it didn't stop him from getting two hits against Chris Sale. Gattis singled in the second for the only baserunner Sale allowed through the first five innings, and he homered in the eighth.

"He's grabbing the bat and it looks like there is sawdust coming out of the bottom," Sale said. "I also have a lot of respect for people who don't wear batting gloves. Lucky he didn't go onto the concourse."

Gattis joined the Astros shortly after the start of this season and played in 20 games before they decided to option him to Corpus Christi to get some extensive playing time at catcher. He'll probably catch a couple of times a week when he isn't serving as the DH.

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.