All-Star or not, Blanco continues to lead Astros

Houston wins 7th straight at home as right-hander throws team-best 10th quality start

July 10th, 2024

HOUSTON -- Just two days after missing out on an All-Star selection, only allowed two runs in seven innings in the Astros’ 4-3 win over the Marlins on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park. With the victory, Houston extended its home winning streak to a season-high seven games.

The Astros, who began the day two games back of Seattle in the American League West, improved to 47-44.

Blanco's only blemishes were a pair of homers -- Jazz Chisholm Jr.'s leadoff blast and a solo shot from Jesús Sánchez in the seventh inning -- along with a single from Bryan De La Cruz.

"It’s one of those things that we all think about,” Blanco said of possibly being an All-Star roster addition for the AL. "We all want to have a chance to be able to go there, but that’s something that I can’t really control. So my focus now is just to look forward and try to help this team get to the World Series."

Blanco struck out seven, throwing 87 pitches and retiring 17 batters in a row during one stretch. He finished his night with a 2.53 ERA and notched his team-leading 10th quality start to improve to 9-3 on the season.

"He’s an All-Star on our club, and he’s pitched like an All-Star. And I think he deserves to be on the All-Star team for the American League,” Astros manager Joe Espada said before the game.

Opposing managers seem to agree with Espada’s evaluation.

"Blanco's tough,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. "I think he should be in consideration to be an All-Star. I said that pregame. His changeup is really effective. He's got enough fastball at the top, he kind of tunnels the changeup and fastball, and then a really good slider that guys have a tough time picking up."

Blanco’s velocity on Tuesday night was slightly down, as his four-seam fastball, slider and changeup were each roughly 1.5 mph slower from their season averages. Blanco attributed the slower velocities to not being able to play catch on Monday.

"I feel like he just started hitting the corners, started hitting a lot of spots,” Chisholm Jr. said. "In the first two at-bats, I feel like he was more middle of the plate. I feel like my last at-bat he was more on the corners and on the bottom. He made that adjustment and he was better throughout the game.”

Aside from the pair of solo homers, Blanco turned in a performance that helped Houston stay within reach of AL West-leading Seattle. What's more, the Astros improved to 10-0 in games started by Blanco following a loss.

"He understands what’s at stake. We need[ed] a good outing after losing the series at Minnesota,” Espada said. “He goes out there; he competes. He gave us a chance to win and that’s what he’s been doing all year.”

After Sánchez’s homer in the top of the seventh, launched one of his own in the bottom of the inning to break a 2-2 tie and to give Houston the lead back.

"I think tonight was one of those nights where I felt like when we got guys in scoring position, we kind of capitalized on our limited chances,” Bregman said.

Bregman also added to Blanco’s praises, emphasizing his belief that the pitcher was the “most valuable player in the first half” for the Astros. Bregman also said that while he believed all of this year’s All-Star pitchers earned their honors, Blanco “deserved to be there, too.”

Even if Blanco is invited to the All-Star Game as an injury replacement, his presence in Arlington on Tuesday may not be a given. Blanco’s turn in the current Astros' rotation has him slated to pitch on Sunday in the series finale against the Rangers, but doing so would make him ineligible to throw in the All-Star Game two days later.

"We’ve got to sit down and have a conversation,” Espada said pregame. “We’re trying to win games and we are in the middle of a good stretch of winning games. I want Ronel Blanco to go to the All-Star Game, but Ronel Blanco also wants the Houston Astros to win and make the postseason."