Watching from the bullpen as journeyman Collin McHugh carved up the Kansas City lineup, Astros reliever Tony Sipp only wished he had a bucket of popcorn and a soda.
"It's like watching a good movie," Sipp said, "and you don't want to mess up the ending."
After McHugh held the light-hitting Royals at bay over seven innings, Sipp and Chad Qualls provided an appropriate ending. They worked the final two innings without allowing a hit in a 3-0 victory Tuesday night that gave Houston its first four-game winning streak since September.
The Astros own the worst record in the AL, but have won four in a row on the road for the first time since taking six straight away from Minute Maid Park last May 29-June 3.
"I mean, I think we're playing hard," said McHugh, who is already on his third big league team in three seasons. "We're coming to play every day, and we're putting together a few games here."
Houston rookie George Springer's homer streak ended at four games. He hit two flyballs to the warning track and finished 1 for 4. Matt Dominguez hit an RBI single in the fourth, and the Astros tacked on two more runs against Tim Collins in the eighth.
"That's what you call an extremely well-played baseball game," Houston manager Bo Porter said.
McHugh (3-3) scattered five hits while striking out nine without issuing a walk to earn his first win in five starts. He stranded a runner at third base in the second inning and runners at second and third in the fifth, but otherwise cruised through the Kansas City lineup.
The only run Jeremy Guthrie (2-4) allowed came when Dominguez followed up a pair of one-out walks to Dexter Fowler and Jason Castro with a single in the fourth inning.
Guthrie left after allowing seven hits and three walks in six innings. The right-hander dodged plenty of trouble, inducing double-play grounders in the third and fifth, but still got stuck with his fourth straight loss. His last win came April 9 against Tampa Bay.
During a nine-start winless streak, Guthrie has allowed just one run on three occasions.
The Royals lost for the sixth time in their last eight games, and their pop-gun offense has had a lot to do with the futility. Kansas City has been held to three or fewer runs in four of its last five games, including the 9-2 pounding that Houston dished out on Monday night.
Royals manager Ned Yost's frustration boiled over in the sixth inning. He went out to check on Guthrie with the bases loaded and two outs, and was returning to the dugout after their discussion when plate umpire Kerwin Danley met him near the mound.
After saying something to Danley, Yost was immediately ejected.
"I got frustrated on some calls I thought Jeremy should have got. It's mostly my fault," said Yost, who was tossed for the second time this season.
Meanwhile, McHugh continued to slice up the Royals' batting order. He struck out designated hitter Billy Butler twice, silenced Eric Hosmer's bat and retired the last eight hitters he faced.
It was the fourth time the Royals have been shut out this season.
"You don't lose confidence, but you're definitely frustrated," Hosmer said. "We definitely should be putting up a better fight. As an offense as a whole, we should be putting up a better performance than that. We're not getting the job done."
NOTES: Royals RHP Yordano Ventura will miss his next start due to a valgus extension overload, a condition that causes pain in the elbow. He left Monday night's game in the third inning. An MRI on Tuesday came back negative. ... The Astros left 11 runners on base. ... Houston RHP Jarred Cosart is slated to start Wednesday's series finale. LHP Danny Duffy is on the mound for Kansas City.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.