HOUSTON -- The Astros boasted all winter about their starting-pitching depth, but those words rang hollow when the starters posted a 5.10 ERA in April and struggled to work deep into games. The addition of rookie right-hander Chris Devenski breathed some life into the rotation at the end of the month and has now left manager A.J. Hinch with a tough decision.
With right-hander Lance McCullers expected to join the rotation this weekend in Boston for the first time this season, Devenski made his case to remain in the rotation by allowing two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings in Tuesday's 4-0 loss to the Indians at Minute Maid Park.
"I felt like it was good," said Devenski, who threw 72 of his 104 pitches for strikes. "It was in the right direction. That one inning [allowing two runs in the second] -- got to get over those little one-inning hiccups and keep moving forward."
Astros starters have strung together a season-high six consecutive quality starts, posting a 2.25 ERA in that span. Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers each allowed two runs or fewer in seven innings in their most recent starts, and Doug Fister gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings on Friday.
"This isn't a surprise for us," Hinch said "I think the surprise was the amount of struggles in April. We have a very reliable rotation, and we have guys that are out of the rotation right now that are very reliable as well, when you look at McCullers, who hasn't gotten to the season yet, and [Scott] Feldman, who's pitching as good as he's pitched during my time as an Astro. Whether it's our rotation or just the quality of guys that we have to throw out there every night, they're doing it."
Devenski battled Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor for 15 pitches in the first inning before getting him to hit a liner to first baseman Tyler White for a double play. It looked like the battle might drain Devenski, but he was extremely efficient afterward and later said he learned he needed to throw inside more to get batters off his changeup.
"I was just trying to get [Lindor] out, honestly," he said. "It was a good battle. I looked at him a couple of times, he looked at me. It was a good little smile going on."
Devenski allowed the first two batters in the second to reach on a single and a walk. With runners at second and third and one out, Juan Uribe hit a comebacker that Devenski knocked down before throwing to the plate in an unsuccessful attempt to cut off a run, forgoing an out at first.
"I went with my instinct to go home, and we didn't get him, but I got into a rhythm after that," he said.
Indeed. Devenski retired 15 of the final 20 batters he faced and was pulled after walking Lonnie Chisenhall with two outs in the seventh. Hinch was impressed.
"I think his style is be the aggressor, and he's not going to back down, and by doing that he's going to challenge hitters in the strike zone to have to beat him with the bat," Hinch said. "I like that approach because he can go about it in different ways. He's got different pitches for different-style hitters. He's not a perfection-execution style pitcher, but he's a very aggressive-minded strike-thrower."