Astros hold off Cubs 2-1
McHugh, bullpen quiet NL's top offense

Giles celebrates win
(c) Houston Chronicle

The Astros shut down the "best team in baseball" Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 win in front of a national television audience. Astros pitchers held the highest-scoring team in the N.L. to just two hits while recording a total of 12 strikeouts in the game.

Collin "Gluten-Free" McHugh seemed to recapture his mojo, striking out four Cubs in the first two innings and six over his five innings of work. McHugh also issued three walks which, coupled with the strikeouts, resulted in an elevated pitch count that forced him from the game earlier than he would have preferred.

Dexter Fowler led off the game with a solid single to rightfield but was left stranded when McHugh got Kris Bryant to ground out then fanned Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler. Miguel Montero's fourth inning double was the only other hit the Cubs would register as McHugh and a quartet of relievers kept Chicago hitters off-balance the rest of the afternoon.

Alex Bregman got the scoring started with a solo home run off John Lackey with one out in the third. The Astros added another run in the inning, following up the long ball with some "small-ball" including a bunt single by Jose Altuve and a safety squeeze by Marwin Gonzalez.

Chicago scored its only run of the game in the fourth when Willson Contreras plated Soler with a sacrifice fly to right. McHugh finished off his afternoon with a 1-2-3 fifth and Chris Devenski pitched a perfect sixth.

Will Harris issued a 1-out walk to Contreras in the seventh but Jason Castro threw out the Cubs catcher trying to steal second. Luke Gregerson worked around a walk and a stolen base in the eighth, striking out Fowler and Bryant to protect the 1-run lead.

Jose Altuve, who started at DH due to an upset stomach, left the game in the eighth in favor of a pinch-hitter. Tony Kemp popped out to third and Carl Edwards Jr. struck out the next two batters to send the game to the ninth with the Astros still leading by a score of 2-1.

Ken Giles walked Rizzo on four pitches to start the inning and Joe Maddon called on Matt Szczur to pinch-run for his all-star first-baseman. A wild pitch put Szczur in scoring position with nobody out and it began to look as though Giles might not be able to convert the save.

Giles bounced back to strike out Soler and got Miguel Montero on a first-pitch slow roller to first. Giles then struck out Contreras with the tying run only 90 feet away to earn his tenth save of the season, becoming the third Astros reliever to reach double-digits in the category.

The Astros totalled only five hits in the game, two of which were by Bregman who extended his on-base streak to 24 games. McHugh was credited with his tenth win of the year and the third in his last four starts.

The rubber game of the series gets underway at 7:05 pm CDT on Sunday as the two clubs will again be showcased to a national television audience. Mike Fiers takes the ball for Houston against reigning N.L. Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta in a game that can be viewed on ESPN.

Altuve is expected to be back in the lineup while the status of shortstop Carlos Correa, who has missed four straight games with a sore shoulder, remains unknown.

- Greg Thurston