Part of the Houston Astros’ struggles can be attributed to their two top pitchers not quite matching their impressive 2015 numbers.
One just lost a record home winning streak, and Collin McHugh gets his shot to straighten things out Tuesday night against the visiting Minnesota Twins, who for a second straight game go with an inexperienced starter.
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McHugh (2-3, 6.65 ERA), who was 19-7 with a 3.89 ERA in 32 starts a season ago, didn’t make it through an inning in his 2016 debut, and after one strong start, he’s allowed 11 runs in 14 1/3 innings in his last three. The best of those was Wednesday’s 7-4 win in Seattle in which the right-hander gave up two runs in five innings.
"I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of more satisfied with a five-inning outing," McHugh said. "Nothing’s coming easy right now, we all know that. It’s been a battle since the get-go this year."
Unlike Monday’s starter Dallas Keuchel, McHugh doesn’t have an impeccable home record to fall back on. He’s given up nine runs in 9 1/3 innings of his last two starts at Minute Maid Park, though he’s 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in three career starts against the Twins with Brian Dozier going 0 for 8.
After Jose Berrios made his second career start Monday for Minnesota, Alex Meyer is in line for his first. The right-hander has appeared in three games for the Twins since his June 26 debut and given up seven runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings.
The 26-year-old was 1-1 with a 1.04 ERA in two starts and a relief appearance for Triple-A Rochester before being recalled April 25. He’s replacing Tommy Milone in the rotation after manager Paul Molitor said Friday the left-hander would be relegated to a bullpen role.
That move came days after Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson went on the 15-day disabled list, so the rotation has undergone a massive overhaul with Tyler Duffey joining Meyer and Berrios. Duffey has a 1.74 ERA in two starts, and Berrios ended Keuchel’s 17-game home winning streak in Monday’s 6-2 series opener.
It’s onto Meyer as the Twins (8-18) try to take the series after losing four straight. Dozier was 3 for 5 to break an 0-for-16 slump, while Eduardo Nunez homered and is batting .371.
"On paper with Keuchel pitching at home and us having a guy making his second start in the big leagues, it probably didn’t look very good on paper," Molitor said. "But we made that guy work, made him throw a lot of pitches and found a way to put some runs on the board."
They’re still not hitting with much consistency, posting a .249 average over the last five games, but that’s up from the .241 mark they entered that span with. The Astros would take it in a heartbeat.
Houston (8-18) failed in its latest attempt to win consecutive games for the first time this year. In addition to the struggles from their top two starters, the Astros’ offense has been terrible with four runs and 11 hits in three games. They’re batting .166 over a 2-4 span with Carlos Correa at 2 for 17 in that stretch. Colby Rasmus is 3 for 25 in the last seven and Tyler White has gone 2 for 31 in his past nine.
Carlos Gomez, batting .213, has missed the last three games because of a rib cage injury. Manager A.J. Hinch said he was hopeful to get Gomez in a game during this series and should avoid the DL.