The Astros came into Thursdays contest desperately needing a win. Any team that is struggling needs a good starting effort and Collin McHugh looked to be that guy as he faced off against young left hander Alex Wood. Thursday was also the return of left fielder L.J. Hoes from the minor leagues, where he batted .323.
Unfortunately this game would be what would be known as a complete loss for the Astros. Nothing really went right and they found themselves scoreless after nine.
Following a one, two, three inning by McHugh, Dexter Fowler started the party early for the Astros. He laced a line drive double to right center. Dexter erased himself from the bases when Jose Altuve came up and hit a sharp two hop ground ball to Andrelton Simmons at short. Fowler tried to advance to third and was easily thrown out. Altuve had Fowler’s back when he promptly stole second to make up for the base running blunder. The first inning would be reminiscent of a lot of innings for the Astros lately as George Springer struck out and Jon Singleton grounded out to short, stranding a runner at second base.
Evan Gattis lead off the second inning with a well placed ground ball down the left field line which would be a double. The Braves were able to change their motto on offense a tad when Jason Heyward advanced Gattis to third with a ground ball and Justin Upton hit a sacrifice fly to right field. After the top of the second the Braves lead 1-0.
McHugh glided through the third and the fourth while issuing two walks. A key stat to watch in any McHugh start are the walk totals. Batters are now batting .192 against Collin, so hits are generally not the problem. The Astros finally broke through with a solid hit by Jon Singleton into right center for a double in the fourth. However, once again the Astros found themselves leaving a runner in scoring position when Matt Dominguez grounded out.
The Astros would not have another base runner until the bottom half of the sixth. With the game still 1-0 in favor of the Braves, Fowler drew a one out walk. With two outs in the inning Springer broke his hitless night, grounding a ball up the middle of the diamond. More runners would be stranded however when Singleton went down swinging at a ball in the dirt. That marked the third opportunity the Astros had with runners in scoring position, and came up empty.
The Astros would pay for their mistakes offensively when McHugh ran into trouble in the seventh. He hit Jason Heyward with a 2-2 fastball followed by a towering home run to right center by Justin Upton. This would make the score 3-0 and giving the Astros a tall order versus Wood.
Kyle Farnsworth checked in in the eighth following seven strong innings from McHugh. Farnsworth retired Simmons before surrendering a well hit double to B.J. Upton to straight away right field. Left hander Darin Downs came in to pitch and promptly balked the base runner to third. Following the balk Tommy La Stella grounded out to first advancing Upton home for a 4-0 advantage.
The rest of the game ended quietly with the Astros losing by way of shutout 4-0. The Astros would finish the game with a mere three hits and four guys left on base. This game was a case of just the usual happenings for the Astros of late. The at bats looked like they were pressing and the quality of pitches offered at suffered. If there is any silver lining McHugh’s seven innings were strong besides one blemish in the two run homer. He seems to have improved his command from the last time out, compiling nine strikeouts. Freddie Freeman was hit in the elbow by Downs and was removed from the game. His availability for tomorrow remains questionable.
After the game Collin seemed none to pleased with his performance referring to it as a “loss.” The Astros will look to salvage one game in the series tomorrow versus the Braves at 1:10 as Jarred Cosart will take on Mike Minor.