The day that Astros fans have waited for is coming.
Not the season premiere of Game of Thrones, that was last night. Collin McHugh should be on the mound for the Houston Astros this season for the first time this year. This will not be as hard of a battle like the one for the Iron Throne as McHugh will automatically get his spot back. Jake Kaplan reported that McHugh should return this weekend. The Stros have not made an official announcement yet. Who will he replace in the rotation though?
Before we get to that part, let’s take a look at McHugh’s start at Double-A. You will be happy to know that McHugh looks ready to return to the mound for the Astros. Last night, McHugh was very efficient only throwing 69 pitches in six innings. He did allow one unearned run but only allowed four hits and walked one batter. The Rough Riders put the ball in play often because McHugh only struck out two batters.
Recapping his start.
McHugh got off to a rough start allowing two singles in the first inning but stranded the runners. The second inning started with an error and a walk, but McHugh got the next three hitters out. Then McHugh cruised through the third and fourth innings 1-2-3 style. The run scored in the fifth inning after a leadoff double, advancement on a ground out, and then a throwing error.
McHugh then got a double play to retire the side. The double play was his friend again in the sixth inning after a leadoff single. It was good to see McHugh being able to dig himself out of trouble. After his six innings, McHugh went to the bullpen to throw a little more trying to stretch out further per Mark Berman. McHugh had nine groundouts in last night’s game.
Who is the third starter?
A few days ago, McHugh told reporters that, “this team is fun to watch, but I’m tired of watching!” The Astros got their 62nd win of the season last night without McHugh throwing a single pitch this season. McHugh entered the season as the third starter before the ‘dead arm’ symptoms appeared. Has Charlie Morton become the third starter, or will McHugh reclaim that role?
Morton is trying to reclaim his early season form as he walked five batters in his start Friday night. While he did strike out ten hitters, he threw way too many pitches and only lasted five innings. He did qualify for his seventh win of the season and raised his ERA to 4.06. Morton has 78 strikeouts in only 68 2/3 innings this year.
Doesn’t need to save the Astros.
The good thing about the Astros is that McHugh doesn’t have to come back and save the Astros season. His role is to be a pitcher to try to go deep into games and limit the opposing offense. That is what McHugh has done in his time with the Astros. McHugh won 19 games in 2015, will he return to that pitcher or is the 2016 version his true self?
Either version of McHugh will help the Astros win this season. With the trade deadline approaching, McHugh could show that they don’t need to acquire a top starter. The good news about him missing most of the season, he should remain fresh down the stretch. Could McHugh be that third pitcher behind Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers in the playoffs?
Yes, but we have to see what he can do at the big league level first. With McHugh returning, I can see Joe Musgrove going back to Triple-A. The Astros need depth for the rotation, so it will be better to keep him stretched out. Some will say that maybe Brad Peacock should be the third starter. When Keuchel returns in the next two weeks, Peacock will go back to his bullpen role he excelled in early in the season.
Some will say that maybe Brad Peacock should be the third starter. When Keuchel returns in the next two weeks, Peacock will go back to his bullpen role he excelled in early in the season. While he has been great as a starter, the Astros have not found someone who can pitch multiple effective innings out of the bullpen.
With the turnaround of Mike Fiers and the returning starters, Peacock can bolster the bullpen. My guess is Musgrove will get one more start, but will go down to Triple-A. A healthy McHugh will help relieve some of the pressure from the bullpen.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and MiLB.com***