The Houston Astros' ace isn't getting it done, and his struggles have been compounded by their No. 2 faltering nearly as much.
Collin McHugh can at least begin to alleviate the latter Wednesday night as the Baltimore Orioles try to even things up in the second of a three-game series in Houston.
While reigning AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel sits at 2-6 with a 5.92 ERA through 10 starts, McHugh (4-4, 5.13 ERA) enters his 10th with a shot at stringing together quality starts for the first time this season. The right-hander gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings of Thursday's 2-1 loss at the Chicago White Sox.
His manager had no problem comparing his outing to the ace in the other dugout.
"Chris Sale came as advertised," A.J. Hinch told MLB's official website. "It's no real surprise as well as he's pitched. It's probably as good a stuff that we've seen all season. We knew it was going to be a tough, low-scoring game. If we could hang in there enough and give ourselves enough opportunities we'd get a chance, and we couldn't scratch anything across early. Got the big home run, got a couple of runners on. He was in pretty much control of the game, and Collin matched him."
The additional good news is these might not be sustainable poor numbers. He's throwing more pitches per inning (18.2) than he has since his rookie year, but he's walking fewer batters this season (2.28 per nine innings) than he has over his career (2.36). What it might come down to is a .368 batting average on balls in play that's certain to come down.
Whether that happens against the Orioles remains to be seen. McHugh is 1-0 with a 4.66 ERA in three starts in the series and gave up eight runs in 13 innings of two contests last season.
Mark Trumbo is 2 for 2 against him, while Adam Jones is 3 for 9 with a home run.
Baltimore counters with Tyler Wilson, who is coming off his worst start of the season. Wilson (2-2, 3.68) gave up five runs and six hits with three walks in six innings of Thursday's 7-2 home loss to Seattle, yet the Orioles can't be altogether upset with what the right-hander has given them in five starts since making the move from the bullpen.
Wilson is 2-2 with a 4.40 ERA in those games and has gone at least six innings in his last three outings after a couple starts of stretching out.
He said a three-run sixth in which he was trying to be too perfect spoiled what could have been a stronger box score.
"There in the sixth inning, sometimes you end up giving up three trying to stop one, and I think that's what happened," Wilson said. "I tried to make too good of pitches or tried to worry about stopping that guy from scoring on third, forcing the double play, and giving up three. And I think sometimes that happens in the game.
"Obviously, that's not how you want it to go down."
The Astros (18-28) walked off with Tuesday's 3-2 win in 13 innings on Carlos Correa's single scored Tony Kemp. George Springer was 3 for 4 with two walks and has a .420 on-base percentage on a 14-game span of reaching bas at least once.
Baltimore (26-17) has scored seven runs over a 1-2 span while batting .162.