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ATL@HOU: McHugh strikes out nine over seven innings

HOUSTON -- The frustration was clear in Astros pitcher Collin McHugh's voice, even if manager Bo Porter said the right-hander threw the ball as well as he has in about two months.

McHugh differed, saying he couldn't get control of his fastball, which forced him to rely on his breaking stuff too much. That's what hindered him in the seventh inning Wednesday, when he hit Jason Heyward with an awry fastball and then hung a breaking ball to Justin Upton.

Upton's two-run homer in the seventh sealed the fate of McHugh and the Astros, who were shut out for the 10th time this season -- a 4-0 setback to the Braves at Minute Maid Park that was their eighth loss in nine games.

"You look at the stat line and he'll get the loss, but I feel like he made one pitch that he would probably want back, which is the home run to Upton," Porter said. "But he made a mistake to a really good hitter and he didn't miss out. Outside of that one pitch, I feel like he was in complete control of the game the entire time."

McHugh (4-6) suffered the loss in his third consecutive start, though he's allowed only six earned runs in 18 innings in that span. He worked seven innings Wednesday and gave up three runs, two walks and struck out nine batters.

In his last seven starts, McHugh has a 2.70 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings.

"I'd like to have better fastball command and be able to challenge guys like Upton and some of those guys a little bit better, but it is what it is," McHugh said.

The Astros were held to only three hits, with Braves starter Alex Wood (6-6) tossing seven scoreless innings in his return to Braves rotation after getting optioned June 10. He's pitched at least seven innings in five of his eight starts this year.

"His breaking ball and changeups were outstanding," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "To throw 79 pitches in seven innings, you can ask for much more."

The only hits the Astros managed were a leadoff double by Dexter Fowler in the first, a two-out ground-rule double by Jon Singleton on the fourth and a two-out single by George Springer in the sixth. It was a rare 0-for-4 night for Jose Altuve, who entered the game having gotten a base hit in 37 of his previous 41 games.

"Collectively, I think we need several guys in our lineup to get going," Porter said. "Again, when you have collectively up and down the lineup many guys scuffling at the same time, obviously it gets magnified a little bit more. Because Altuve's been so good this year, it's a little bit odd when he goes 0-for-4."

McHugh hit Heyward with a pitch with one out in the seventh, and Upton made him pay when he clubbed a long homer into the bullpen in right-center to make it 3-0. B.J. Upton doubled and scored in the eighth, coming home moments after he advanced to third on a balk by Darin Downs.

"You put a guy on base for a guy like Upton, who's an RBI machine, things are going to happen, especially late in the game," McHugh said. "I had gotten up to around 100 pitches and maybe I was getting a little tired or something, I don't know. You can't do that. You can't give guys free bases."

Especially when the Astros are struggling so much on offense.

"Our guys are competing out there; they're competing hard," McHugh said. "Their guy threw the ball really well. You know that every run you give up is at a premium with a guy like that on the mound. Late in the game, to put us down by a couple of more runs, it's hard. It's hard for guys to come back. Our guys are battling out there. This one stings a little bit."

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