HOUSTON — Collin McHugh continued his stellar season and the Houston Astros got back to their winning ways.
McHugh went 7 2/3 innings and Hank Conger hit a grand slam as the Houston Astros beat the Minnesota Twins 8-0 on Friday night.
McHugh (15-7) gave up seven hits and struck out six in picking up his second straight win.
"He’s been terrific, specifically in the second half," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "For him it’s pitch execution. He’s got so many different ways to get guys out and he’s been very creative with his pitches. He’s had better finish as the season’s gone on."
McHugh has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last six starts.
"He’s a complete pitcher and when he’s locked into his mechanics and getting down the hill, he’s got a lot the hitter has to deal with," Hinch said. "It looks like the ball jumps out of his hand a little more than the scoreboard reads, and the breaking ball to me has been very impressive, both below the zone and in the zone."
McHugh, who hadn’t pitched since Aug. 26 at the New York Yankees, became the Astros’ second pitcher to win at least 15 games with Dallas Keuchel, who leads the AL with 16.
"When you get ahead of guys you’ve got to be able to put guys away," McHugh said. "Whether it’s a curveball, whether it’s cutters or high fastballs, we’ve been able to execute pretty well in all phases of the game when it comes to that."
Colby Rasmus had two hits, including a monstrous two-run homer into the upper deck in right field in the second inning to give the Astros a 3-0 lead.
Conger upped the lead to 7-0 in the fourth with the grand slam into the Crawford Boxes in left field. After Evan Gattis, Jed Lowrie and Carlos Gomez led off the inning with singles, Mike Pelfrey (6-9) struck out the next two hitters to set up Conger’s second grand slam of the season.
"It felt great, especially he got those first two guys out with the bases loaded and I’m trying to get a momentum shift," Conger said. "He has a good two-seamer, so for me I’m trying to look out over the plate and try to do some damage."
Conger, who had not hit a grand slam before this season, hit his first career grand slam Aug. 1, against Arizona. He added an RBI single in the eighth.
Carlos Correa’s RBI fielder’s choice in the first gave Houston a 1-0 lead.
Lowrie had three hits and scored twice, and Gattis had two hits for Houston, which had lost two straight and three out of its last four games.
Pelfrey was tagged for seven runs and eight hits with five strikeouts in four innings. It was Pelfrey’s second straight outing of four innings or less — both against the Astros. The two home runs given up snapped a streak of seven consecutive homerless starts totaling 42 2/3 innings.
"These guys kicked my butt five days ago," Pelfrey said. "They did it again today. It was even worse today."
Pelfrey lasted just 3 2/3 innings in his last start against the Astros on Saturday, allowing four runs in a 4-1 loss.
"I think right now he’s struggling a bit confidence-wise," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "The results haven’t been good as of late."
Joe Mauer had two hits and the best chance to score for Minnesota but was thrown out at home by Gomez trying to score on Miguel Sano’s single in the first. The Twins did not get a runner past second base the rest of the way.
Twins righty Phil Hughes (lower back inflammation) is expected to throw off a mound in Minneapolis this weekend and will join the club in Kansas City for a simulated game next week.
Astros outfielder George Springer was activated from the 15-day DL on Friday and started in right field. Springer went on the DL with a right wrist fracture on July 2. He went 1 for 4 with a single.
TEN ASTROS WITH TEN HOMERS
The grand slam was Conger’s 10th home run of the season, giving the Astros 10 players with 10 or more home runs, breaking the franchise record of nine set in 2000. The major-league record is 11 players with 10 or more home runs set by the Detroit Tigers in 2004.
Twins righty Ervin Santana (3-4) goes Saturday in the second game of the three-game series. Santana threw seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts in his last start Sunday against the Astros.
Astros righty Lance McCullers (5-5) matches up for a second straight start against Santana after taking the loss Sunday, giving up three runs in six innings.