Confidently and somewhat quietly going about his business, Collin McHugh continues to be a major asset for the Houston Astros.
The right-hander can become the AL's first 14-game winner by winning his fifth consecutive start Saturday against the Oakland Athletics at the Coliseum.
Though McHugh (13-5, 4.27 ERA) is part of a revamped rotation that includes more prominent names like Dallas Keuchel and Scott Kazmir, he's recorded the most wins in the majors since Aug. 1, 2014, going 20-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 32 starts. Prior to this run, McHugh was 4-16 with a 5.06 ERA in his first 24 starts.
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''It's hard to really put into words what it came from, what my first calendar year looked like in major league baseball versus this one,'' he said. ''It has been a blessing to play on a good team like this, a good group of guys, and the organization putting faith in me the way they have to put me out there every five days.''
McHugh has yielded one or two runs in three of his last four starts, including Sunday when he gave up one in seven innings of a 4-1 victory over Arizona.
''At one point I looked up there and he had like 15 or 16 balls of like 75 or 80 pitches,'' Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. ''That's incredible strike-throwing."
McHugh hasn't had too much trouble finding the strike zone while going 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA, 18 strikeouts and three walks against Oakland (49-62).
He hopes to continue that success and help the Astros (61-50) rebound from Friday's 3-1 defeat. Sonny Gray yielded a Luis Valbuena home run and four other hits to help Oakland even this four-game set.
''We knew going into the game that this was going to be a pretty difficult task on both sides (with Keuchel also starting),'' said Hinch, whose team has a 1 1/2-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West. ''They found some hits, they found some holes."
Danny Valencia homered and Marcus Semien had three hits as the A's beat Houston at home for the first time in five tries this season. Semien is batting .409 in seven games this month.
Jesse Chavez (5-11, 3.88) is 0-2 with a 10.03 ERA in his last three starts, and looks to bounce back after he yielded six runs and two homers in 3 2-3 innings of a 9-2 home loss to Baltimore on Monday.
''What's frustrating is I'm physically fine, I feel strong,'' said Chavez, who has failed to complete four innings in two of those three outings. ''It's just one little mechanical thing that can make it look like you're dragging.''
As the right-hander tries to figure out what exactly the problem is and avoid extending his AL-leading loss total in day games to seven, he makes his first start this season against the Astros after throwing a scoreless inning of relief at Houston on April 13. Chavez went 2-1 with a 5.32 ERA in four starts against the Astros in 2014.
Carlos Gomez is 1 for 12 in the last three games but 2 for 5 with two doubles against Chavez.
The Astros added help in the bullpen Friday, acquiring lefty reliever Oliver Perez from Arizona for a minor league pitcher.
"They're in a good spot right now," Perez said. "This is why we play baseball. It's going to be a really good opportunity for me."