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April 22, 2014 at 11:34 PM

Astros 5, Mariners 2 — eight is not so great as the losing continues

So who here had heard of Collin McHugh before tonight?

(My hand is not raised).

Well, Collin McHugh  is a 26-year-old right-handed pitcher that was called up in place of an injured Scott Feldman. And he was dominant against the Mariners, pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits, striking out 12 and walking noe.

The 12 strikeouts were the most by any pitcher in their Astros debut.  The record had been held by Clemens, who struck out nine in his debut against the Giants on April 7, 2004. McHugh is also the first Astros pitcher to strike out 12 batters and not walk anyone or allow any runs since Randy Johnson in 1998.

“He was a little different than the scouting report we got, he was throwing 93-94,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He had pretty good cut fastball and command. He pitched exceptionally well tonight.”

There was nothing about McHugh’s background that suggested such a showing. He spent most of the 2013 season in the minor leagues. Coming into the game, he’d made 15 major league appearancesf in his career (eight starts) and was 0-8 with a 8.94 earned run average. The Mariners wish they could have seen that version of McHugh, not the guy, who was throwing his fastball on the outside corner with precision.

McHugh struck out the side in the first and third inning and was hit hard only a couple of times.

“We’ve got to have better at-bat as a team as a whole,” said first baseman Justin Smoak. “He was in and out with a little cutter and a change-up and a curveball. His fastball away was running a little. But it was nothing haven’t seen before.”

“We’ve got to have better at-bat as a team as a whole,” said first baseman Justin Smoak. “He was in and out with a little cutter and a change-up and a curveball. His fastball away was running a little. But it was nothing haven’t seen before.”

It wasn’t till he left that the Mariners finally mustered some offense.

After striking out Robinson Cano for the second out of the seventh inning, Astros manager Bo Porter lifted McHugh in favor of lefty Raul Valdes. The move didn’t work so well Valdes walked Kyle Seager and then served up a two-run homer to Justin Smoak, who hammered a 2-2 curveball deep into the left field stands.

“I was just trying to battle,” Smoak said. “He hung a slider out over the plate and I put a good swing on it.”

But that was it for Seattle, which has scored two runs or fewer in seven of its last 10 games. It was the second straight game they struck out 14 times.

“It’s still early and we all know that,” Smoak said. “But at the same time, it’s time for all of us to make a little bit of an adjustment.”

This may have been Erasmo Ramirez’s last start in the rotation. As you can tell in the video, Lloyd McClendon was not pleased.

He gave up a pair of homers on 0-2 counts … or as we call them “Noesis”

These were problems that irked McClendon and spring training and they’ve carried over into the regular season with the exception of his first start in Anaheim.

“He did not make quality strikes when he needed to, particularly ahead in the count and it cost him tonight,” McClendon said.

Even with Ramirez rallying to retire  14 of his last 17 batters faced after the Carter homer, McClendon still wasn’t that impressed.

Did Ramirez make some adjustment for the later success?

“For me, I think he has to pitch better than he pitched,” McClendon said. “If you saw an adjustment that was good, then that’s a probably you should ask him.”

Ramirez didn’t have an exact description for the change.

“It’s something I have to work on,” he said. “I have to try and better pitches in that situations. I tried to use every pitch I’ve got.”

McClendon has been unhappy with Ramirez for the last handful of starts. If there had been a viable option in Class AAA Tacoma, Ramirez would’ve likely traded place with him. But McClendon wouldn’t rule it out. General manager Jack Zduriencik was waiting his office. And the fact that he even addressed it means he’s considering it, strongly.

“That’s something that Jack and I will sit down and talk about,” McClendon said. “The fact is this club is struggling and you need to go out and throw strikes and put up zeroes. And he didn’t do that early.”

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