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HOU@PHI: Utley launches a three-run dinger to right

For the most part, success for the Astros in 2014 has come by way of effective starting pitching.

The Astros entered Wednesday with a 5-3 record in their previous eight games. Houston starters had posted a 2.05 ERA in those eight games and had allowed three runs or fewer in eight consecutive games prior to Brad Peacock struggling Wednesday.

"I said this earlier in the year. In May, when we went on that really good stretch and played good baseball, I felt like it started with our starting pitching," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "You look at the numbers, it will tell you that. When you start to get your starter to go deep into games, it limits the number of outs the bullpen has to record and you're able to match those guys the way you'd like and no one is overextending. No one's being used too much and being asked to cover 10, 11 outs any given night."

But right-hander Collin McHugh, who will get the start for the Astros on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park, is proving to be an exception to effective starting pitching translating into wins in Houston. McHugh has been far from lights out recently, with a 4.20 ERA in hist last eight starts, but equally not deserving of the 0-6 record he owns during that span. The Astros averaged an anemic 1.33 runs per game in those six losses.

Despite his 4-9 record, McHugh's overall numbers are solid. He has a 3.32 ERA and 1.11 WHIP this season, and is among the AL leaders in both opponents' batting average (.203) and strikeouts with 102 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings. He'll be searching for his first win since June 3.

Meanwhile, Roberto Hernandez, fresh off his best outing of 2014, was to get the nod for the Phillies, but he was traded to the Dodgers just hours before game time for two players to be named later.

Phillies: Franco unlikely to be called up before September
Maikel Franco is swinging a hot bat in Triple-A, but Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said he doesn't expect the third baseman to join the big league club before rosters expand in September.

Entering Wednesday, Franco, the organization's No. 3 prospect according to MLB.com, had 13 hits, including three home runs, and nine RBIs over his last 10 games with Lehigh Valley. Franco, 21, has a .325/.357/.600 slash line over that period.

Sandberg said Wednesday that Franco "is making some strides," but added that management has not discussed a promotion.

For now, the Phillies would prefer Franco to play regularly in Triple-A, as opposed to limited at-bats in the Majors. Cody Asche, 24, is the Phils' primary third baseman and also needs playing time.

"I think it's beneficial right now that [Franco] plays as much as he can play, no question about it," Sandberg said. "Just for the experience and the at-bats and for development. The more he can play the better."

Astros: Springer has setback with quad
The Astros hoped to have rookie slugger George Springer back in time for Friday's contest. Now, they're not sure when he'll be back in the Majors.

During his Minor League rehab assignment Wednesday with Class A Quad Cities, Springer tweaked the strained left quad that has kept him on the disabled list since July 20. He will return to Houston to be re-evaluated, according to Astros manager Bo Porter.

"He hit a double and felt it a little bit in his quad, and for precautionary reasons we went ahead and pulled him out of the game," Porter said after his team's 10-3 loss Wednesday.

Springer was hitting .231 with 20 homers and 51 RBIs in 78 games since being called up in the middle of April. He was the American League Rookie of the Month in May

Worth noting:
• Wednesday night's win gave Philadelphia back-to-back series wins at home for the first time since Sept. 6-18, 2013, when they won three straight sets at Citizens Bank Park.

• The Phillies have won each of their last six games against the Astros at Citizens Bank Park since April 1, 2011, which is their longest home winning streak over the Astros since an eight-game stretch from July 29, 1980 to Aug. 23, 1981.

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