Rotation hits rough patch at inopportune time

Inconsistent offense another reason behind Astros' four-game skid

Rotation hits rough patch at inopportune time

HOUSTON -- The Astros' pitching staff has been one of the best in baseball, posting the third-lowest team ERA (3.90) in the American League, but Wednesday's 8-2 loss to the Cardinals highlighted a rough patch for Houston's rotation.

For the fourth consecutive game, the Astros couldn't get a quality start. This time, veteran righty Doug Fister allowed seven hits and four runs in only four innings as St. Louis jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, which was too large for Houston to overcome.

"There are good things and bad things from days like this," Fister said. "We have to hold on to the good ones and continue to work on those bad ones."

The nine runs Fister has surrendered in his past two starts tied a season high for the most the right-hander has allowed in consecutive starts this season.

Hinch on loss to Cardinals

But Fister isn't the only one in the rotation who has struggled lately. In the past four games, Fister, Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers have combined to allow 20 runs in 19 innings.

Add rough starting pitching to an inconsistent offense and you have a recipe for the Astros' first four-game losing streak since bottoming out at 17-28 on May 22 and the club's fourth losing streak of three games or more since the All-Star break.

"If I had an answer for every single swell, both positive and negative, we would bottle up the good, and I would continue to feed it to them," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.

Mired in one of the toughest stretches of the season -- 15 of 17 games on the road -- and in the middle of a packed race for an American League Wild Card spot, it's certainly not an ideal time for the Astros' rotation to be struggling, but Hinch chooses to stay positive and hope his club's hard work will pay off in the end.

"It depends on your perspective on life," Hinch said. "If you're glass half-full, you tip your cap to the other side. You want to be negative, then we can beat up our own guys. I'm not going to sit up here and criticize our guys."

After all, the Astros still have 42 games to right the ship and make it to the playoffs for the second straight season.

"They're putting in effort. They're putting in work," Hinch said. "We can be better tomorrow than we were today, and that's what I've got to worry about."

Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.