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No relief from 'pen after Fiers' strong run ends

MLB.com @brianmctaggart

PHILADELPHIA -- A short start for Astros right-hander Mike Fiers led to a chain of events that ultimately resulted in a 9-0 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.

Fiers, who had been on a terrific run in his previous 10 starts, needed 102 pitches to complete four innings, forcing Houston manager A.J. Hinch to tap into his bullpen earlier than he would have liked.

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PHILADELPHIA -- A short start for Astros right-hander Mike Fiers led to a chain of events that ultimately resulted in a 9-0 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.

Fiers, who had been on a terrific run in his previous 10 starts, needed 102 pitches to complete four innings, forcing Houston manager A.J. Hinch to tap into his bullpen earlier than he would have liked.

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With steady reliever Will Harris on the disabled list -- he could return this weekend after throwing a scoreless inning in a Minor League rehab outing on Wednesday at Class A Advanced Buies Creek -- Hinch tried to keep a 3-0 game close, turning to Michael Feliz in the fifth.

• Hinch targets weekend return for injured trio

The Phillies rocked Feliz for six runs and eight hits in two innings, taking a 9-0 lead after six. In his last nine appearances, Feliz has given up 10 earned runs and 19 hits. He could be in danger of being sent to Triple-A Fresno if Harris is activated on Friday.

"They got some fastballs to hit," Hinch said. "That part of the order can hit some fastballs if they're not located, and obviously they got a little bit contagious. They got a couple of hits in a row and hit the ball pretty hard. We didn't keep the ball in the ballpark there. We were a little bit strapped in the bullpen with how we could use our guys. Like I said, an off night."

Feliz came into the game and immediately gave up a triple to Aaron Altherr, a homer to Maikel Franco and a single to Tommy Joseph, bringing Hinch to the mound for a pointed chat.

"I just had something to say to him about what I wanted him to do in terms of competing," Hinch said of Feliz, who declined to talk to reporters after the game.

Fiers battled and had pitched around a pair of hits, a pair of walks and a hit batsman to keep the game scoreless through three innings. Things unraveled quickly in the fourth, though, with Cameron Rupp hitting the first of his two two-run homers. Nick Williams added an RBI hit later in the inning.

"He was a little bit wild and around in different areas," Hinch said. "He couldn't land his breaking ball. He gave up some two-strike breaking ball hits, but he also had some decent two-strike fastballs and changeups. He was mixing and trying to find the right rhythm, trying to find the right combo. He escaped most of it until the fourth, and obviously his pitch count was so high and he had to battle so long, it was time for him to come out."

Fiers threw 20 pitches in the first inning, 25 in the second, 26 in the third and 31 in the fourth.

"Every inning they had guys on, they made me throw a lot of pitches with guys on base, and they were always in spots to score," Fiers said.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter..

Houston Astros, Mike Fiers