ARLINGTON, Texas — The Houston Astros were planning to send 21-year-old Lance McCullers back to the minors even before he got only one out in his latest start.
Then they had to go through a second starting pitcher in the series opener at the Texas Rangers.
After the youngest starter in the majors had his worst outing so far, newly acquired Mike Fiers was roughed up in his premature AL debut — giving up six runs over five innings and the last two hits of Adrian Beltre's third career cycle — as Houston lost the series opener 12-9 on Monday night.
Fiers, acquired from Milwaukee in a trade on Thursday, was Tuesday's scheduled starter. But the right-hander was forced into action Monday with the Astros short in the bullpen, and he gave up five runs in his first inning.
"I need to be better than that," Fiers said. "If I was, we probably could have won this game."
McCullers (5-4) allowed six runs and seven hits with a walk against nine batters. That came five days after he gave up only one run over seven innings to beat the Los Angeles Angels.
"It's kind of frustrating," he said. "I had two strikes on two different batters and they both fouled off curveballs that hit the dirt before they hit their bat."
The Astros optioned McCullers back to the minors after the game.
"Probably a short stay in the minor leagues. We've been talking about his innings, his rest, how to monitor him," manager A.J. Hinch said. "Unfortunately, it came on the heels of a rough start, but that was likely no matter what."
Josh Fields then threw 1 2-3 scoreless innings before Fiers took over and promptly struck out Shin-Soo Choo to start the third. But the next seven batters reached base — on six hits and a walk — in a five-run inning that put the Rangers ahead 11-3.
That included Beltre's single before he came up in the fifth and homered to complete his third career cycle, becoming the first player since the 1930s to accomplish that.
"Not going to lie, I was looking for a home run," said Beltre, who lined a fastball into the seats in left field.
Jason Castro hit a grand slam for Houston, his third homer in 14 at-bats. Rookie Carlos Correa had a two-run shot to put the Astros ahead in the first, and Luis Valbuena's solo homer in the second was his 20th of the season, but first in 83 at-bats since June 23.
A two-run triple by Beltre in the first inning put the Rangers ahead to stay at 3-2. He had a double in the second on another ball hit into the left-center gap.
The last major leaguer with three career cycles was Babe Herman, who had two in 1931 and one in 1933, according to research provided by the Elias Sports Bureau to the Rangers. The only other big leaguers with three career cycles are Bob Meusel (1921, 1922 and 1928) and John Reilly (twice in 1883 and 1890).
Colby Lewis (12-4) had to work hard over six innings for his fourth consecutive victory, giving up seven runs and 10 hits — three of those home runs. The right-hander is 8-1 in 14 career games against Astros.
Shawn Tolleson worked the ninth for his 19th save in 20 chances.
All three of Beltre's cycles have come at the Rangers' ballpark, two for the home team and one as a visitor when he was playing for Seattle on Sept. 1, 2008. He's the first player to have more than one in the Rangers' 55-season franchise history. ... It was the ninth cycle in Rangers' history, their sixth since the beginning of the 2009 season, twice as many as any other team in the majors in that span.
Astros: OF George Springer is traveling with the team and doing workouts that don't involve the right wrist he fractured July 1. Hinch said Springer won't get his wrist examined again until the Astros return home.
Rangers: C Carlos Corporan (left thumb sprain) is making progress in his minor league rehab, but manager Jeff Banister said Corporan needs to catch nine innings and play consecutive days.
Astros: Dan Straily is getting called up from Triple-A Fresno to start Tuesday in place of Fiers, who ended up throwing five innings in relief Monday night.
Rangers: Yovani Gallardo (7-9, 3.39) was 0-3 with a 5.46 ERA in his last six starts, allowing five runs in each of his last three starts.