McHugh great escape artist against Mariners

Right-hander logs 6 scoreless innings, induces key double plays

McHugh great escape artist against Mariners

SEATTLE -- Astros starter Collin McHugh's day was nearly ruined in the first inning on Sunday when Seattle's Kyle Seager missed hitting a grand slam by a few feet when a ball he scorched to right field sailed past the foul pole. Seager wound up striking out, and McHugh wriggled out of the mess.

That was a familiar theme for McHugh in an 8-1 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field. McHugh threw six scoreless innings and worked out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the third by getting the Mariners to hit into one of five double plays to improve to 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA this season against Seattle.

"He found a way to gather himself a little bit and find the strike zone with his pitches," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It wasn't the most efficient outing, but you look up and he throws six scoreless. That's as good of an outing as we could have expected based on how it started."

McHugh (6-6) walked four batters and struck out 10, but he was at his best with men on base. The strikeout of Seager came after McHugh had walked two with one out and then hit Nelson Cruz to load the bases. In the third, the Mariners led off with a walk and two hits to load the bases, but McHugh struck out Seager again and Dae-Ho Lee hit into a double play.

"A lot of traffic on the bases," McHugh said. "Obviously, as a starting pitcher you like to limit that. The less guys on base, the less pitches you have to throw, the less stressful pitches you have to throw and usually the quicker the game goes by.

"For whatever reason, walks and couple of hits, a couple of fluky plays on both sides, guys get on base. I have to buckle down and understand you have to make your best pitches of the day with those guys on and guys in scoring position and we were able to do that."

McHugh repeatedly praised catcher Evan Gattis for helping him manage the at-bats with people on base. McHugh struggled with fastball command early and started throwing a few more curveballs and cutters to keep guys off balance.

"Gatty did a great job back there of helping me though," he said. "If you would have told me I was going to go six after that third inning, I would have taken that bet."

As far as the near grand slam by Seager, McHugh knows he was fortunate.

"I started sweating a little bit more when I was out there and I saw that ball," he said. "You start to give it the body lean a little bit. That could have changed the game, could have broken the game wide open. I don't know who to thank for that, probably God."

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.