Zach McAllister (3-6, 5.97) vs Collin McHugh (9-9, 2.79)
Around the final turn and down the stretch the Astros come, beginning their final homestand of the season with a four-game set against Cleveland at MMP. Tonight was a showcase for two of the brightest stars of 2014's much-improved Houston squad - Jose Altuve (the likely team MVP) and Collin McHugh (the deserving team ROY). Altuve continued his torrid streak since passing 200 hits, tonight adding 3 more and factoring in all 3 Astros runs. McHugh continued his own late-season string of remarkable success, having not allowed more than 2 runs in any start since July, and not having walked a batter in 4+ starts, since he last faced these Indians back on August 23. Count it all up into a 3-1 Houston win, improving the team to 8-4 in September - all against playoff contenders - and 67-83 overall.
On the Mound:
*Doctor McHugh was having himself another great night until his night was ended the way you want to see no pitcher's night ended early - and in this case, that unfortunately does not mean he lost effectiveness. McHugh took a line drive off the left (non-pitching) forearm with two outs and none on in the 7th, but fortunately the early medical returns seem hopeful - only a contusion. Which is good, because hopefully then he'll be healthy enough to make two more starts this season, which just might be enough to push his now 2.66 ERA onto the official league leaderboard. But regardless of leaderboards, it has been a remarkable year for Houston's unlikeliest star, further evidenced tonight as the only run he allowed was unearned following a Marc Krauss error on the attempted first out of the game. The Doctor never allowed more than one hit in any inning, never walked a batter (again), and finished with a 6.2 IP / 5 H / 1 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 7 K line before Lonnie Chisenhall's liner caught him on the inside of the left arm, not far above his glove. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for McHugh.
*Kevin Chapman got the emergency call to relieve McHugh in the 7th, ending the inning on two pitches, then further recording the first two outs of the 8th (1 K) before leaving after a Michael Brantley single.
*Samuel Deduno's one job tonight was to face Carlos Santana, whom he fell behind 3-1 before retiring him on a liner to right.
*Chad Qualls and his odd hip ailment were not banished to Weiland Island, as he resurfaced tonight for the save situation in the 9th. And Chad was back in his typical not-facing-the-A's form, allowing a two-out single but nothing else, recording his 18th save with 1 K.
At the Plate:
*We're out of superlatives to describe Jose Altuve's offensive prowess anymore. He's just too good, and there's nothing more that can really be said about that. Three more hits tonight put him at 209 for the season - one away from Craig Biggio's club record - and the first of those hits was a 2-run single that put Houston up 2-1 in the 3rd. The third of those hits was a leadoff triple in the 8th, after which he scored the Astros' other run, and pushing his MLB-best average now up to .342 following his 3x4 night.
*Gregorio Petit is still swinging well and went 2x3 tonight, scoring on Altuve's RBI single in the 3rd.
*Mike Bob Grossman likewise scored in the 3rd following his own double, and he finished 1x4 with 2 K.
*Jason Castro had a double and finished 2x3.
*Dexter Fowler went 0x3 with a K, but drove in Altuve in the 8th on a sac fly.
*Handsome Jake Marisnick had the other Houston hit, going 1x3 with a SB and a K.
*Chris Carter went 0x4 with a K and saw his 12-game hitting streak come to an end.
After old friend Michael Bourn scored his unearned run in the 1st, Houston struck back in the 3rd. Matt Dominguez led off with a full-count pop-up in foul territory for the first out, but Gregorio Petit followed with a single to left. Robbie Grossman next doubled, moving Petit up to third and bringing Jose Altuve to the plate. On Zach McAllister's first pitch to Altuve, he singled up the middle and flipped Cleveland's 1-0 lead into a 2-1 hole. With Collin McHugh on top of his game and the bullpen strong in relief, that cinched the series opener for Houston.
Man of the Match:
Co-MotMs to Altuve and McHugh tonight. At this rate, Jose ought to have no trouble smashing Biggio's record tomorrow night.
Goat of the Game:
Lonnie Chisenhall, for the line drive that took out McHugh. But also Marc Krauss - 0x3 with 2 K, and an error on a routine throw from Altuve that led to Cleveland's only run.