HOUSTON -- The starting pitching that scuffled so much in April has turned it around, but only enough for the Astros to lose frustratingly close games in May. The Astros got another strong start Saturday night against the Rangers, but lost their third consecutive 2-1 game to fall to 10 games under .500 (17-27).
Right-hander Mike Fiers held the Rangers to two runs in seven innings for the team's fifth consecutive quality start, but there was no margin for error. The Rangers made a second-inning Elvis Andrus homer and an RBI single by Rougned Odor in the third stand up against a Houston offense that's scored three runs in three games.
"You get a starting pitcher that goes out there and gives you that kind of outing, more times than not you're going to come out ahead and feel really good about it," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I still feel good about what Fiers did, but unfortunately it was in a loss."
Fiers (3-2) has pitched seven innings in three of his last four starts. In his last five starts he's 2-1 with a 3.19 ERA, and he leads all Astros starting pitchers in ERA in the last month (since April 23). He didn't walk any batters on Saturday night, and he struck out six.
"We know we should be better right now and things just aren't happening like we want them to," Fiers said.
Seven of the Astros' last eight games have been decided by one run, and the one that wasn't was decided by two runs. The Astros' last five losses have all been by one run, as they've fallen to 5-10 in that department. So when Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick ran down a ball off the bat of Andrus in the fourth inning to save a pair of runs and keep the game at 2-1, it loomed large.
"He saved us a couple of runs tonight in center field, and that doesn't surprise me," Hinch said. "He does that all the time when he gets out there. It loomed very large with runners on base, and Andrus hit the ball very well. Off the bat, I didn't think it was going to go as far as it did, and Jake stayed with it and made a running catch."
Fiers was hoping he could look back on the play as saving the game, but the bats never came around.
"A couple of great plays by Jake to keep me in the game and allow me to go deep in that game," Fiers said. "I settled in pretty much. There's a couple of bloopers here and there, but I felt like I pitched a decent game. We just didn't score as many as they did."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.