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Astros beaten in grand fashion by Royals, 12-2

McHugh’s struggles continue, ERA soars to 6.37

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals hit two grand slams in a 12-2 beatdown of the Houston Astros Tuesday night. Losses like this happen sporadically throughout an MLB season. The bigger concern for the Astros is what’s going on with Collin McHugh?

Through his first four starts, McHugh was arguably the club’s best starter. In his last four, he’s been the worst.

Geoff Blum mentioned McHugh’s fastball command seemed to elude him in tonight’s contest, which makes sense given McHugh walked three batters, equaling a season-high, in just 3+ innings.

McHugh’s fastball has a negative pitch value (-3.4) this season, according to FanGraphs, and is by far the lowest rated offering in his arsenal over his career (-30.4). However, McHugh’s fastball had a pitch value over +4.0 in both 2017 and 2018. It seems regaining the use of his fastball may be one of the keys to McHugh returning to the form we saw earlier this season.

Following a 1-2-3 first inning in which he struck out two batters, McHugh allowed a solo home run to Jorge Soler off the batter’s eye in centerfield. It was the first earned run McHugh had allowed against the Royals in his career, but it surely wasn’t the last.

Whit Merrifield hit a leadoff triple in the third inning and scored on a double from Adalberto Mondesi to give the Royals a 2-0 lead. Mondesi, the Royals’ No. 2 hitter, is tied with Jose Abreu for the American League lead in RBI (33).

Later in the inning, Hunter Dozier — the AL’s leading hitter (.348 BA) coming into the game — hit a chopper to Carlos Correa that looked like it could be a double play. But Dozier narrowly beat Altuve’s throw to first to keep the inning alive for the Royals.

Alex Gordon followed with a two-out walk to load the bases for Ryan O’Hearn, who deposited McHugh’s first pitch into the rightfield bleachers to clear the bases and give the Royals a 6-0 lead.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Consecutive hits from Billy Hamilton and Merrifield made it 7-0 in the fourth inning and chased McHugh (3-4, 6.37 ERA). The Astros’ starter surrendered seven hits — six for extra bases — eight runs and struck out just three in his 3+ innings.

Chris Devenski retired the first two batters he faced before a rare misplay from Jake Marisnick resulted in a run-scoring triple to extend the Royals’ lead to 8-0. Devenski tossed two innings and allowed one hit with one strikeout.

Framber Valdez had a classic inning in the sixth, when he allowed multiple baserunners but no runs scored (thanks mostly to a nice catch by George Springer at the wall in rightfield).

Alex Bregman hit a solo home run, his 10th dinger of the year, in the bottom half of the inning to get the Astros on the board.

The Royals loaded the bases again in the seventh against Valdez, who simply flirted with too much trouble. Merrifield connected with two outs for the Royals’ second grand slam of the evening to give Kansas City a laughable 12-1 lead.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight marked the first time the Astros allowed two grand slams in the same game in over a decade.

Michael Brantley had two more hits to raise his AL-leading total to 46. It was also Brantley’s 17th multi-hit game, tops in the AL. Springer collected his 30th RBI of the season with a single in the seventh. Correa went hitless to end his career-best hitting streak at 16 games.

Tyler White pitched the ninth for the Astros and was probably the best mound presence for the Astros all night. He threw a scoreless ninth and even struck out a batter.

Shockingly, it was White’s third appearance as a pitcher for the Astros.

Danny Duffy (1-1, 3.06 ERA) twirled 6 23 inning for the Royals and allowed two runs on six hits with five strikeouts.

Box score and videos here.

The Astros go for the rubber game in their series with Royals Wednesday night at 7:10 p.m. (CT). Brad Peacock (2-2, 5.28) will oppose Jorge Lopez (0-3, 5.09). Peacock looks to rebound from the shellacking he took in Minnesota against the Twins (seven earned runs allowed in 3 23 innings) while Lopez searches for his first victory of the season.