The Houston Astros aren’t fading. In fact, they seem to be getting stronger.
The Astros (69-57) swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in Houston this past weekend and now lead the Texas Rangers (64-59) by 3.5 games in the AL West. Houston limited Los Angeles to just three runs in the series.
“It’s great to beat a good team like that,” Astros righty Collin McHugh said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I think just confidence-wise, they’re really talented. They got pitching, they got hitting, they can play some defense, they can run a little bit – they’ve been in first place for awhile in their division. So to have them come in town and play as well as we did, just play complete games – I think, for us, is the most important thing. When we do that, we tend to win more often than we don’t. That was the case this weekend.”
It was certainly the case last Friday, when Mike Fiers, who was acquired from Milwaukee before the deadline, threw a no-hitter. Fiers flummoxed the Dodgers all night, finishing with 10 strikeouts in the 134-pitch effort.
“It was incredible,” McHugh said. “It really was. It was the first time I had ever seen one in person. I’ve been playing baseball for 20+ years. It was the first time I had ever seen a no-hitter. To do that in a race like this against a team like that at home in front of 35-, 38,000 people, it was amazing. (It was) something I won’t forget. I’m sure obviously Mike won’t forget (it either).”
The Astros employed all the no-hitter superstitions – both when Fiers was on the mound and in the dugout.
“Honestly, we’re not talking about it at all,” McHugh said. “Everybody’s making awkward eye contact and making sure that everybody knew what was going on without actually signaling that anything was going on. But it was exciting. It was fun. Once you get past like the fifth inning and the crowd starts getting into it and then everyone in the dugout gets a little bit nervous – it’s like good nervousness, though. You might see some history. So yeah, I was having a blast.”
Fiers’ no-hitter was yet another magical moment in a magical season for Houston. Once the laughingstock of baseball, the Astros have been arguably the best story of 2015. They’ve struggled on the road (24-36), but they’ve been dominant at home, going 45-21 at Minute Maid Park.
Astros fans have noticed.
“First of all, it’s loud,” McHugh said. “I don’t think I realized how loud it is once you close the roof and you got 34,000 people in there. They can make it sound big – really big. It’s fun when you kind of get that energy and people get up and start yelling. You can feel the place shake a little bit. It’s just a really good energy. It really has been. The fans have been really supportive. Even last year and coming into this year, you never know what you’re going to get with a new team, a new coaching staff. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well everybody’s turned out and how supportive they’ve been throughout the whole process. This year is just kind of icing on the cake in a lot of ways. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Hopefully we’re going to have packed crowds the rest of the way.”