McHugh Blanks M's To Start Trip
Astros Pull Within Four Of Wild Card Spot

McHugh: Masterful
(c) Associated Press
It's been an up-and-down year for Collin McHugh. Coming off a 19-win campaign last year, the righthander was torched in his 2016 debut and has blown hot or cold all season. With Houston's playoff chances dangling by a thread, McHugh picked a good time to come back to hot. The veteran tossed seven innings of two-hit shutout ball Friday night to lead a 6-0 whitewash in Seattle that helped narrow the gap.

The wild card standings are stark and clear now. Baltimore and Toronto own the two spots at 81-66. Three games out are Seattle and Detroit at 78-69 then comes the Yankees and Astros, four games back at 77-70. No half-games to worry about. Everyone is at 147 games with 15 left to play. The tragic number for the Astros is 12, which is the combination of Astro losses and wins by whichever teams currently lead.

You've heard that old "one game at a time" cliche but it is appropriate here. There will be a lot of scoreboard watching from the West Coast this week. The Astros will need to blank it all out of their minds and just win the game in front of them.

The Mariners had to like their chances Friday at home with King Felix on the hill but the Astros have often been rude subjects before His Highness. Jake Marisnick spanked a two-run double to left in the second for the only runs the Astros would need however Carlos Correa found that same left-field corner in the third to plate Jose Altuve with another double and a 3-0 advantage.

Marisnick singled in the fourth, stole second and just beat the throw home on Yulieski Gurriel's base hit to center. Finally, the Astros showed some muscle in the fifth as Evan Gattis (his 27th) and Marwin Gonzalez (his 9th) drilled solo homers off Hernandez to prompt his exit.

McHugh, meanwhile, gave up two walks and two harmless singles en route to his 11th win. James Hoyt and Tony Sipp added a scoreless inning of relief each to close it out.

In other news, Alex Bregman's hamstring injury appears serious enough that he has not made this road trip and may miss the rest of the season. The Astros called up third baseman Colin Moran for reinforcement.

Houston tries to maintain the momentum of their quiet two-game winning streak Saturday as Mike Fiers (10-7) takes the mound against lefthander James Paxton (4-6) in an 8:10 Central contest at Safeco.

- Bob Hulsey