HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) — Collin McHugh’s previous start was over by the second inning after an eight-run shellacking last Friday against Detroit.
While his outing Wednesday night could still be termed a bounceback effort, Josh Donaldson ensured it wouldn’t be in a winning effort.
The Toronto slugger cranked a pair of solo home runs off the Astros’ starter, and Marco Estrada extended the Houston’s offensive woes as the Blue Jays ensured at least a split of this four-game set with a 3-1 win in Minute Maid Park.
“The solo homer rarely beats you,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “It did tonight, and we weren’t able to help out [McHugh] very much.”
Jose Bautista added a solo shot of his own, meaning all six of Toronto’s runs through three games and 32 innings of this series have come via one-run homers .
The Blue Jays (61-47) now own a 4.5 game advantage on the Astros (56-51) in the American League Wild-Card chase.
It was Donaldson doing the damage against McHugh, who still lasted six innings while allowing those three lone long balls while striking out a season-high 10.
“Most of my pitches were there, and early on, we had settled into a groove and felt pretty good most of the night,” McHugh said.
But when the reigning AL Most Valuable Player made contact, there was no defense to stop it. Both of his home runs went the opposite way, slicing into the right-field seats.
Donaldson opened the scoring with a liner that just cleared the right-field wall in the fourth inning. That opened the floodgates a bit, as McHugh had allowed just one ball out of the infield in the opening frames.
Hinch said he didn’t believe McHugh even made a mistake pitch to Donaldson despite allowing a home run. McHugh said the high strikeout and home run tallies were connected.
“[Strikeouts] and homers, they’re kind of accidents,” McHugh said. “We found a couple barrels on heaters after making good pitches up in the zone all night.”
Bautista and Donaldson went back-to-back a couple innings later, putting Houston in a 3-0 hole against a dominant Estrada.
The Toronto right-hander continued his consistent 2016 campaign by handcuffing a scuffling Houston lineup to the tune of four scattered hits and one run across seven frames.
Of course, it hasn’t been difficult to silence the Houston bats of late. The Astros are mired in a season-worst slump, scoring just six runs in their past 50 innings and five games.
“Right now, there are some guys grinding mentally and physically trying to do too much and ultimately not finding the results we’re capable of,” Hinch said.
It was no surprise that Jose Altuve plated the only run, drilling an RBI double down the left-field line to score Marwin Gonzalez in the seventh inning.
Altuve meekly flew out left-field and Carlos Correa struck out looking to end the eighth inning after Houston put the tying run at second base in the eighth inning.
One night after Joe Musgrove electrified Minute Maid Park with eight strikeouts in his MLB debut, James Hoyt also made his first Major-League appearance in relief. The new Astros hurler overcame a Correa error to post a scoreless seventh inning.
The teams wrap up this four-game set with Thursday’s series finale, as Mike Fiers will get the start for Houston, which has lost seven of its last nine games.
“We haven’t been able to find a way to win close games lately or get a big hit and get our offense out of the cooler a little bit,” Hinch said.
“We need to find a way to scratch out a couple runs early and avoid playing from behind again.”