Can the Astros Get Their First Sweep of the Season? They Already Have Clinched First Road Series Victory.
The Astros won the second game of the series behind solid pitching from Doug Fister, and productive hitting from the offense, including home runs from Colby Rasmus and Jason Castro, as well as newcomer Tony Kemp going 2/3 with a double, single, and walk in his first career start.
The Astros bullpen again found themselves in a save situation and utilized the same 7-8-9 inning formula as they have in recent games using Ken Giles, Will Harris, and Luke Gregerson in order. This game worked out much better than the first, as Gregerson made quick work of the three batters he faced.
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Fister picked up his fourth win of the year, and Gregerson recorded his ninth save, and hopefully gave himself and A.J. Hinch a bit more confidence moving forward. The Astros will attempt their first sweep of the season in game three, before heading back home to host the rival Texas Rangers.
McHugh is a usual beneficiary of ample run support, and against his counterpart in this matchup, he may not have that luxury. McHugh has received an average of 5.32 runs from his offense this year. However, Chris Sale has yet to allow more than three runs this season. McHugh has been up and down so far this season, and in his last start, he gave up four earned runs on ten hits in six innings to the best hitting club in baseball, Boston. Before that start, he allowed one run in seven innings to the AL West-leading Seattle Mariners.
To achieve more consistent success, McHugh needs to focus on keeping the ball in the stadium. In all but two of his starts this year, he has allowed at least one home run. His HR/9 average is 1.3, almost double his average for the previous two seasons in which he won 30 games combined. His H/9 average is 12.9, which is up by 25% from last year and almost doubled from 2014, so he is not trending in the right direction with those statistics.
Opponents this year are batting a combined .337 against McHugh. McHugh has never pitched at U.S. Cellular Field and only has one career start against Chicago in which he lost in 2014. Current White Sox batters are hitting a combined average of .227, with Austin Jackson having the most success.
Sale, as mentioned earlier, is simply dominating the competition. In his last outing, he recorded his second complete game victory of the young season against the Yankees, needing only 99 pitches to do so. While his strikeout rate is a bit down this year from previous seasons, his absurd 0.75 WHIP and decreased home run rate is powering him to be one of the best pitchers in the league.
Unfortunately for the Astros, Sale has shown absolutely no mercy on the Houston club. In four starts against Houston, Sale is 3-1 with a 0.56 ERA; He has given up only two earned runs in 32 innings while fanning 47 batters; that is sheer dominance. Most of the Astros hitters, however, have only a few plate appearances against Sale, with Altuve having the most experience and success, batting .357 in 14 at bats.
The Astros offense does appear to be rounding into form, but this will be their toughest test of the season.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***