A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about Mike Fiers facing a make or break start against Justin Verlander and the Tigers. Fiers had been struggling all season, and with players like Brad Peacock breathing down his neck, it was increasingly difficult for AJ Hinch to justify starting the 6-year righty. Fiers responded by giving up 10 hits for 3 earned runs in just 4.2 innings. Predictably, Fiers was demoted from the starting rotation.
Since then, Fiers has been inserted back into the starting role out of necessity, as Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton have joined fellow starter Colin McHugh on the DL.
In his three starts since nearly losing his job, Fiers has been great. He has pitched 18.1 innings, allowing 14 hits and 4 earned runs while punching out 20 batters. He has also given up zero homers during this stretch, something that has been his achilles' heel all season. His best start came today, as he allowed just two hits and one unearned run in 7.1 innings against the Angels, earning his fourth win of the season. He walked two and struck out eight.
This string of solid starts have been huge for Fiers, who has possibly played well enough to earn back his starting job. Peacock is having a great season, to be sure. But his more recent struggles have been accentuated by the fact that he has struggled to go deep into any of his starts this season. He has thrown more than 80 pitches in just one start this season, something that has been problematic for the Astros bullpen.
Fiers, on the other hand, is averaging nearly 6 and a half innings and 100 pitches per start. Fiers is not a tremendous pitcher at this point in his career, but if he keeps serving up the quality starts, his stamina could keep him locked into the Astros rotation. The Astros bullpen is good, but not terribly deep. Fiers' ability to pitch deep into games is big for the Astros, especially today as the bullpen has been gassed all week.
A major theme for the entire Astros roster has been performing big in dire situations, and Fiers has joined that trend with his recent performance. Credit the finesse-pitching righty for responding so well to a very shaky start to the season, and if he keeps it up, the fifth starting spot could very well be his to lose.