If as you watched this game you had the thought that Collin McHugh was spinning up some world class stuff out there, you wouldn't be wrong. McHugh stands out as the centerpiece in the Astros' attempts to out-moneyball their division rival Oakland A's. The spin rate on McHugh's curveball is might higher than the average pitcher. Spin rate gives the pitch more movement and leads to more swings and misses. It was a hidden gem of a statistic that the Astros spotted on him when he was struggling with the Rockies. That, plus a change from a 2 two seam fastball to a four seamer has turned the 27 year old Georgia-native into a formidable foe. He mixed those two pitches with a quality slider to keep the Padres off balance for much of the night.
Early on it looked like McHugh would outduel Padres ace James Shields. Shields pitched three strong innings to start the game getting Astros to whiff at all kinds of pitches in and out of the zone. He fanned 5 'Stros in 3 shutout innings to start the game, but gave up the game's first run on a deep fly dinger by Jed Lowrie in the 4th inning. He still struck out 3 Houston batters that inning, however. In the fourth a long battle with Jose Altuve resulted in an RBI double for the diminutive All Star second baseman. He would then score on a Luis Valbuena single. The Friars were now down 3-0 even with Shields getting two more Ks to reach double digits with 10.
Fear not fellow faithful, the Fighting Friars would not go down without striking back. Despite McHugh baffling them for 4 innings, they did find some success in the 5th. With one out, Will Middlebrooks found a hole and reach first with a single. Alexi Amarista couldn't find a hole of his one, but hit it well enough to first baseman Chris Carter that he had to tag his bag for an out and Middlebrooks advanced with 2 outs. James Shields didn't hit it out of the infield, but he made the shortstop Lowrie range for a ball he couldn't handle and earned a single to put Padres at the corners. Wil Myers would follow with the power and launched a double to score both runners. Yangervis Solarte would bring Myers around with a flared single to LF, his second base knock of the night. After five the two clubs were knotted at 3.
Some worries crept back in to start the 6th when Shields yielded a double to initiate the inning. The Astros propensity for strikeouts helped out again though as the Friar frontman knuckled down and fanned the next two Houston hitters. A groundball to short stop averted the danger. Shields would finish the game with a cool dozen K's. A season high for a Padres hurler.
Even though Shields was out of the woods, the Padres weren't. Brandon Maurer was called upon to be the first man out of the 'pen tasked with keeping the score level. However, that task quickly became unachievable when the leadoff hitter in the 7th, Jason Castro (the Astro), cracked a long ball over the left field fence.
However, the visitors would not hold that lead. Amarista would start the comeback effort with a single to center. After a Will Venable pinch hit strikeout, Myers would move Alexi up a bag on a infield single. Solarte with send him home with a double over left fielder Colby Rasmus' head. Unfortunately, the one-out-runners-at-second-and-third situation would not prove fruitful as both Matt Kemp and Justin Upton failed to bring drive either runner in. This would prove costly.
In the 8th, the Astros would take a lead they could hold. Even though the Padres brought in their 8th inning specialist, Joaquin Benoit, the Houston club got more runs on the board. A couple of walks to start the frame would signal the trouble to come. A swipe of 3rd base would lead to a run as catcher Derek Norris overthrew the bag. Colby Rasmus would follow the blunder with a single to score a second run in the inning. Then big slugger Chris Carter would drive him home with a double to make it 7-4. Another run would be tallied in the 9th when Padres rookie Cory Mazzoni gave up a 2-run shot in his debut to to Rasmus.
The woes continue for the Padres on this homestand now losing 3 of their last 4 since returning home and also 5 of their last 6 due to dropping the final two on their road trip. This wasn't the run that was expected after they had won 10 of their first 15 to begin the season, but it's the hand they've been dealt this April.
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