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HOU@LAA: McHugh strikes out seven in seven innings

After unsuccessful stints with the Rockies and Mets over the past two seasons, Astros pitcher Collin McHugh may have finally found a home in Houston.

That much is evidenced by McHugh's 3.32 ERA and four quality starts in six outings. But this season's performance stands out even more when compared to the numbers he churned out in 2013: 25 earned runs in 23 innings, with opposing teams batting .388 against him.

McHugh's Major League career constitutes a small sample size, to be sure, though not small enough that the Rockies weren't willing to trade the former 18th-round Draft pick of the Mets to the Astros. But why the sudden breakthrough in Houston? What changed?

"Honestly? Nothing," McHugh said with a laugh. "I think it's just a natural progression. You get a little bit older, you get a little bit better."

McHugh, now just a tad older and wiser, will look to keep solidifying his spot in Houston's starting rotation as he squares off with the Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday night. He'll have the benefit of coming off one of his stronger outings of the season -- a seven-inning start that saw the right-hander hold a potent Angels lineup to two runs and fan seven over seven innings -- and he has relished the opportunity to play a significant role on Houston's pitching staff.

"I think being [in Houston], and getting a chance to pitch, and getting a chance to have a little bit of consistency, I think has helped me a lot," McHugh said.

On the other side, the Royals will turn to Jeremy Guthrie (2-3, 4.39 ERA).

Guthrie has been consistent, if unspectacular, this season, with four of his 10 outings winding up quality starts. However, he has also allowed exactly four runs in half of his starts. Like McHugh, Guthrie comes in off a strong start that saw him work seven innings of one-run baseball against the White Sox.

"Tremendous," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Guthrie after his last game. "He should have got out of there scoreless. He got the double-play ball [in the one-run second inning], and we couldn't turn it for him."

Guthrie got pegged with a no-decision when he last faced the Astros, on April 16, allowing four runs in six frames -- both on a pair of two-run homers. He is 2-1 with a 5.18 ERA lifetime against the club.

Royals: Infante back in action
Second baseman Omar Infante was activated from the disabled list on Monday and batted second in the Royals' starting lineup.

Infante had been sidelined since May 7 with what has been called lower back disc irritation. He missed almost three weeks in total, making three rehab appearances with Triple-A Omaha before rejoining the Major League club. He was 4-for-11 with a double in those games.

Yost said there would be no restrictions on Infante in the Houston series, although he'll be cautious during the following four-game series at Toronto.

"We may have to monitor his games in Toronto, because that turf is tough on your back," Yost said. "But we'll just go day to day with it. We've got protection with Pedro Ciriaco and Jimmy Paredes."

Infante doubled in his first at-bat against the Astros, then went hitless in three at-bats. He was replaced for the last inning of the 9-2 loss by Paredes.

Astros: Grossman back with big club
Robbie Grossman began the season about as quietly as any player could. Through his first 14 games, the switch-hitting outfielder had managed just six hits through 48 at-bats, striking out 17 times, before being getting optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City on April 16.

The change of scenery turned out to be just what Grossman needed to spark his bat. In 34 Minor League games, he posted a .299/.373/.453 slash line -- good enough for the Astros to call him back up to the Majors and start him during Monday night's tilt with the Royals.

A similar chain of events unfolded last season, when Grossman was demoted in May, called back up in late July and then went on to hit .322 with 13 extra-base hits in his final 157 plate appearances.

"We're hoping that the stint that he had down there can do the same thing this year, because we can use that offensive weapon in our lineup. We're excited to have him back," Astros manager Bo Porter said.

Worth noting
• Alex Presley was in the Astros' starting lineup on Monday as the designated hitter. Chris Carter has seen a majority of the time at DH this season, but Porter wanted the left-handed Presley in the lineup with rookie righty Yordano Ventura on the mound for Kansas City.

• Royals reliever Wade Davis, who has a 1.61 ERA in 20 games, entered Monday with 12 scoreless innings across his last 10 appearances. His 16.12 strikeouts-per-nine ratio ranks second only to Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel among pitchers with at least 18 innings of work this season.

• Astros second baseman Jose Altuve continues to prove he's one of the game's best young hitters. The speedy right-hander is batting an impressive .323 with 16 doubles and 17 stolen bases. His 71 hits lead the Majors. "Altuve's been playing the best baseball of his career," Porter said.

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