TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Coverage begins at 7 :30 p.m. ET
HOUSTON -- When Dallas Keuchel made his second start following a two-month stint on the disabled list, the Astros didn't bother pushing him into a sixth inning Wednesday night, opting instead to allow the left-hander to rebuild his endurance gradually.
The Astros (69-38) also took a similar approach with right-hander Collin McHugh, who will make his third start of the season on Thursday night in the finale of a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays.
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McHugh debuted July 22 at Baltimore after missing the first 96 games with an elbow injury. He tossed 77 pitches against the Orioles, and seven days later, extended himself to 82 pitches over six innings against the Tigers in Detroit.
McHugh has moved beyond any restrictions.
"He's a little further along in the normalcy part because he's been on the five-day routine for the better part of a month," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I think getting into the major league routine -- scouting reports, game reports, game prep -- it's just different here. You can do as many rehab assignments as you want until you actually get to a major league game. It's just a little bit different. …
"I thought that (performance against Detroit) was the best he's been dating back a while. I'd expect nothing less (Thursday). He'll be prepared to pitch to a game plan. That's a good (Tampa Bay) team for him to pitch against and take the next step towards talking less about getting back acclimated and more just being in our rotation."
McHugh has yet to record a decision over two starts while posting a 4.22 ERA. He is unbeaten over his past 11 starts dating back to last season, going 6-0 in that span. In four career starts against the Rays, McHugh is 0-4 with a 2.52 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 25 innings.
Left-hander Blake Snell (0-6, 4.87 ERA) will start the series finale for the Rays (56-53).
Snell is 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA in two career starts against the Astros. He did not factor into the decision in Tampa Bay's 6-3 victory on April 22 after allowing three runs on three hits and a career-high-tying five walks with four strikeouts over five innings. Snell allowed two home runs that outing, his only appearance this season with multiple homers on his ledger.
The Rays' Logan Morrison, one night after snapping a 36-at-bat homerless drought, homered again in Tampa Bay's 3-0 win on Wednesday.
Morrison, normally a first baseman, has been limited to designated hitter duties because of a sore heel, but he appears to be emerging from a slump that stretched back to July 7. He flashed a revived bat over the weekend against the New York Yankees, then belted his team-leading 28th home run on Wednesday.
"A lot of good signs," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "His swings have been really good. The pinch-hit at-bats he had at Yankee Stadium were pretty telling. And then he's come here and picked up right from there.
"I hate putting pressure on one guy. We talk about Longo (Rays third baseman Evan Longoria), we talk about LoMo, we've got to do it collectively as a team. Logan Morrison is going to continue to do his part, but he has done his part and with no signs of stopping. Just the void that he fills when he's swinging the bat well in the middle of that lineup."