Brown (6 IP, 2 hits) makes his case to stay in rotation

May 22nd, 2024

HOUSTON -- With José Urquidy set to come off the injured list, perhaps by the end of the month, and the Astros maybe going back to a five-man rotation in June, the time was now for right-hander to reestablish himself as an effective starting pitcher.

Brown delivered probably his best start of the season Wednesday afternoon in the Astros’ 2-1 loss to the Angels at Minute Maid Park. He allowed two runs, two hits, three walks and notched three strikeouts in matching his season high of six innings.

Brown threw 96 pitches, one shy of his season high. He has a 7.06 ERA through 43 1/3 innings.

“Hopefully, I can keep building off of these outings,” Brown said. “I felt like lately I’ve been trying to take the positives and keep them rolling. Today, there were some positives to take away from this game, no doubt.”

Despite the loss, the Astros went 7-3 on their season-long 10-game home stand, which is their most wins in a single homestand since they went 7-0 against the Mariners and Tigers in May 2022. The Astros’ inability to win consistently at home appears to be a thing of the past.

“We were 10-6 during a 16-game stretch and 7-3 at home,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. “I’ll take that. I think we played our butts off, and I see the urgency in our players. We’ve got an important road trip ahead of us. The way we’ve been playing baseball, I like the way we’re going about our business.”

Houston’s pitching staff has been ravaged by injuries, with four starters on the IL to begin the season and Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier later spending time on the shelf. Urquidy, who has been out since Spring Training with a forearm strain, appears to be one rehab start away from joining the rotation.

The Astros are currently using a six-man rotation during a stretch in which they play 29 games in 30 days, but they might choose to go back to five-man rotation with five off days in June. Brown has given up seven earned runs and 11 hits in his last 16 innings (3.94 ERA), beginning with a five-inning relief stint in Detroit on May 11 in which he gave up one run.

“That's the Hunter that we all know,” Espada said. “He can be that type of pitcher. He showed the stuff today. I thought that sinker was a game-changer, throwing that stuff in their hands and setting up the four-seam up and the breaking ball. The tempo, his presence -- it was a solid outing.”

Brown said his changeup was the biggest key for him against the Angels. He throws a split-grip changeup and used it 14 times, while relying mostly on his four-seamer and sinker. Brown touched 97 mph with his fastball.

“I thought I got some weak contact with [the changeup] and helped lead to some ugly swings on some other pitches, too,” he said. “I thought that was the difference maker for me when it comes to my pitches today.”

It was a 91.4 mph sinker to Kyren Paris in the fifth inning that wound up costing him and the Astros. Paris, the nine-hole hitter, followed a walk to Mickey Moniak with a two-run homer to left field that put the Angels ahead, 2-0.

“Moniak put together a really good at-bat, and I made a mistake right after that,” Brown said. “And it cost us two runs and ended up being the difference in the game today.”

Angels starter Tyler Anderson held the Astros to one run and six hits in eight innings, with an RBI double by Mauricio Dubón constituting the only damage. Jeremy Peña’s double high off the wall in the fourth was initially ruled a homer but was overturned on replay. Houston was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

"The change of speeds got us,” Espada said of Anderson. “The changeup and he’s got a nice little sinker to keep you off that changeup. He was tough. We battled there and had chances to get in the game, but credit to him. He pitched very well.”