- Associated Press - Sunday, April 27, 2014

HOUSTON (AP) - Collin McHugh has earned his spot in the Astros rotation.

McHugh allowed two hits over 8 2-3 stellar innings as the Houston Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 5-1 on Sunday.

McHugh (2-0), who was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on April 22 to make a start after Scott Feldman had been placed on the disabled list, followed up his first outing where he struck out 12 and allowed three hits in 6 2-3 innings at Seattle on Tuesday with another dominant performance.

“When we sent him out there in the ninth it was with the complete hope that he was going to be able to finish what he started,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “That was tremendous. Attacking the strike zone with all three of his pitches and to pitch that well against a really good hitting Oakland A’s lineup speaks volumes to Collin and the way he and (Carlos) Corporan worked today.”

McHugh struck out seven and walked three, allowing one run in the longest outing of his career. His previous longest outing had been seven innings on Aug. 23, 2012, against Colorado when he was a member of the New York Mets.

“I actually wasn’t even thinking about the hits,” McHugh said. “I was more mad about the walks. I walked a couple guys early, and with this team, you can’t really give them free base runners because anyone in that lineup can do damage to you. As I kind of got momentum, I started to roll with it, and it got easier to make pitches and kind of feel the flow and go with it.”

After the first, McHugh retired 23 of the next 24 batters, including 19 straight before Brandon Moss was hit by a pitch with two outs in the ninth. Moss stole second and came around to score on Alberto Callaspo’s single - McHugh’s first run allowed in 15 1-3 innings this season.

Porter said McHugh has “earned his keep”.

“I don’t think he put us in a tough spot; I think he put himself in a really good spot,” Porter said. “Performance pretty much speaks for itself. This guy has earned the right to get the ball the next turn.”

McHugh said he hadn’t had a lot of consistent starts in his career, so to know he would get the ball again in five days felt nice.

He became the first pitcher in Astros history go 6 2-3 innings or more while allowing one run or less with seven or more strikeouts in each of his first two starts as an Astro.

Raul Valdes got the final out to complete the two hitter.

Jed Lowrie, who singled in the first inning, drew a walk in the third for McHugh’s lone base runner until the ninth.

“He had a great cutter early on and was a little bit harder with his stuff early on,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of McHugh. “Then coming back later in the game he mixed in his curveball better and his change-up. He really did keep us off balance.”

The right-hander, who Houston claimed off waivers from Colorado during the offseason, got out of trouble in the first after loading the bases with two outs with a walk to Callaspo by getting Josh Reddick to pop out to end the inning.

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