With the quiet excellence Collin McHugh has had this season, it's hard not to forgive a lone slip-up. The erstwhile "sixth starter" who hasn't been needed has turned into a valuable bullpen arm. McHugh entered Wednesday night's contest in the Colorado thin air with a 5-0 record and a 0.94 ERA.
Blackmon: Home plate greeting
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In the eighth inning of a tie game, McHugh struck out the side but also allowed a triple. In the ninth, he got the first out before All-Star Charlie Blackmon unloaded with a deep drive to right center for a walk-off homer and a 3-2 Rockie decision that completed the two game series with a split.
Charlie Morton gave up a solo homer to Carlos Gonzalez in the second but kept a lid on the potent Colorado offense otherwise. He gave up the one tally on four hits and four walks over six innings.
The Astros took the lead in the fourth against Jon Gray. After Alex Bregman drew a one-out walk, Jose Altuve smacked a double to right-center that scored Bregman. Yuli Gurriel reached base on an error and Josh Reddick loaded the bases on catcher interference. Marwin Gonzalez grounded out to first but it was enough to get Altuve home with the second run.
That double by Altuve turned out to be the only Houston hit of the night. Altuve would leave after suffering discomfort in his right knee. J.D. Davis took his lineup spot and moved in at third base which would be important later.
Bregman appeared to have a leadoff triple in the sixth but the Rockies challenged that an orange-clad fan reached out into the field of play and deflected the fly away from left fielder Gerardo Parra. Bregman was called out and so was the fan who was escorted from the park by stadium security.
Joe Smith then Tony Sipp took over for Morton in the seventh. Eventually, Raimel Tapia stood at third with one out when Nolan Arenado popped up by the Astros' dugout near third. Davis dashed over to make a leaping catch and flung himself over the dugout railing. Tapia broke for the plate while Evan Gattis tried to turn Davis upward. Davis' hurried throw home sailed past Max Stassi's glove as the Rockies tied the ballgame at two.
That set the stage for Blackmon's tiebreaker, sending most of the 40,948 fans in Denver home happy. Seattle and Oakland both won so the Mariners are now back to within five games of Houston while Oakland is a surprising 6-1/2 games out.
The Astros get Thursday off before starting their last series of the year against the Rangers on Friday. Dallas Keuchel (8-8) will pitch the 7:10 pm Central opener against former Astro-killer Yovani Gallardo (4-1 but with a 7.18 ERA). Altuve says he plans to be back in the lineup and he'll want to be since he is a career .348 hitter against Gallardo.
- Bob Hulsey