HOUSTON -- It was a night to forget for the postseason-hopeful Astros, who were shut out, 2-0, by the 67-86 Angels Thursday night, but Mike Fiers quietly put together another impressive outing on the mound.
After a rough first inning that saw the right-handed pitcher give up the only runs of the night, Fiers bounced back to retire his next 13 batters. He also notched a season-high nine strikeouts and put together his second consecutive quality start, allowing only four hits and those two runs in 6 1/3 innings.
"His first inning was really his only bad inning," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He had the two walks when I pulled him, but he was really good. Fastball-changeup combo was good. He landed a couple of breaking balls, which is good when he's got that in his back pocket. I thought he threw the ball exceptionally well after that hiccup in the first."
Because the offense was nowhere to be seen, the first inning -- during which Fiers allowed a two-run homer to Albert Pujols -- proved costly, but the way Fiers responded was the highlight of an otherwise forgettable night.
"Came out of the gate slow and made too many mistakes in that first inning," Fiers said. "Pujols capitalized on that first-inning fastball, but after that I kind of settled in, got my pitches working and kept them off-balance for the most part."
The season has been an up-and-down one for the 31-year-old veteran, who has posted an 11-8 record and 4.40 ERA in his first full season with the Astros since being traded by the Brewers alongside Carlos Gomez.
But perhaps Fiers' past two starts are a sign of good things to come. He threw six scoreless innings in his previous outing, a 2-1 win over the Mariners, and his nine strikeouts Thursday against the Angels were his most since fanning 10 during his memorable no-hitter against the Dodgers last season.
"Ending the year well would be beneficial to this club," Fiers said. "We're still in this thing. I've got to bring my best game these next couple of times out and give our team a chance to win and get them to this playoff."
The Astros could certainly use the help in their hobbled rotation, currently missing Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers due to injury, especially considering the Astros, as it stands Thursday night, are only 1 1/2 games back of Detroit for the second Wild Card spot.
"Coming down here in September, [the losses] seem bigger, but it's one game and we're going to come back tomorrow and do things well and beat this team tomorrow," said Fiers. "Every game's big for us, starting in April and ending in September."
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.