Astros need lengthier outings from rotation

Astros need lengthier outings from rotation

ARLINGTON -- Astros starting pitchers have posted only five quality starts through the team's first 14 games, and their inability to pitch deeper into games has put some pressure on the bullpen and helped contribute to Houston's rocky start.

Veteran right-hander Scott Feldman needed 41 pitches to get out of the first inning in Tuesday's 7-5 loss to the Rangers, and he was pulled after five innings and 105 pitches, having allowed six hits and four runs (three earned) in his third start of the season.

"That's way too many pitches, obviously," Feldman said. "I've got to come out better than that. I settled down a little bit, but next time I've got to come out better in the first."

Feldman retired Delino DeShields to start the game and got Nomar Mazara to hit a grounder to shortstop Carlos Correa, who misplayed it for an error. Prince Fielder followed with a two-run homer on an 0-2 pitch Feldman hung.

"I feel like the 0-2 count there, I've got to make a better pitch," Feldman said. "[Fielder's] a great hitter, but at the same time, when you're that far ahead in the count, you can't throw him a strike like that. I was trying to bounce that one and didn't get it there, and he put a good swing on it."

In the Astros' last turn through the rotation, only Dallas Keuchel -- eight scoreless innings on Friday against Detroit -- has managed to finish the sixth inning. Keuchel has two of the Astros' five quality starts; Mike Fiers, Collin McHugh and Feldman each have one.

"We're leaning on our bullpen pretty heavily," manager A.J. Hinch said. "We have a good bullpen, and certainly guys like [Chris Devenski] and others in the middle have stepped up and done well. It's part of it. I think our guys are just putting themselves in a hole a little bit and using up a lot of pitches and a lot of taxing innings.

"It hasn't come easy early in the season and early in the games. For the most part, I believe they're going to come back and bounce back out of this. It's important for our guys to put up zeros, even if they don't last deep into a game, try to keep the game close early."

Feldman is aware of the workload of the bullpen and says the starters will get it turned around.

"We obviously are trying our best to get deep into the game, and those guys in the 'pen have been carrying a heavy load," he said. "We're going to get better and keep improving as the season goes on, and hopefully none of this five-and-dive-type stuff like tonight."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.