Brett Oberholtzer made his major league debut on April 21st of this year. A starter throughout his minor league career, Oberholtzer had been called up to bolster the Astros beleaguered bullpen. Brett strolled to the top of the Minute Maid Park mound that Sunday afternoon in the top of the fifth inning of a tie game.
The Cleveland Indians were in town and were fresh off a 19-6 drubbing of the Astros the night before. Carlos Santana would be the first hitter that Oberholtzer would face — and the Indians DH didn’t take long to initiate the Astros 23-year old lefty into the big leagues. Santana greeted the rookie with a long homerun to leftfield that cleared the Crawford Boxes. Sitting in the third deck behind home plate at the time, I remember thinking “welcome to the show kid — it can only get better”.
Brett Oberholtzer is awesome! (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Of course, I was a little concerned that maybe the youngster wasn’t quite ready for the big leagues. But, it has gotten better for Oberholtzer. Much better!
Oberholtzer’s initial stay in Houston was a short one. He would be sent back to AAA after that Sunday afternoon appearance. He would be called back to the show in early July, and would struggle again in his next two relief appearances. But, as the trade deadline approached, the Astros would call on Oberholtzer to make a spot start for Bud Norris, who was about to be traded. That turned out to be Brett’s big break.
Oberholtzer went out and tossed seven scoreless innings in Baltimore against a powerful Orioles lineup, picking up his first big league win. The stellar performance earned Brett another start — this time at home against the Red Sox. Oberholtzer would provide a carbon copy of his first start, throwing another seven shutout innings en route to win number two.
Making his third start of the season today, against the Rangers, Oberholtzer took the mound with a purpose. His first pitch was delivered directly at the backside of Rangers leadoff hitter Leonys Martin. Martin was able to get out of the way of the oncoming fastball that had a message attached.
That message was: You don’t try to bunt when you have a 5-0 lead with two outs in the ninth inning. Did Martin get the message? Probably not. Rangers announcer Tom Grieve certainly didn’t. Grieve suggested that the Astros should “play better” instead of throwing at Rangers hitters.
I would have expected Grieve, a veteran of decades in the game, to know why Oberholtzer targeted Martin. If I knew what was going on, he should have known too.
Oberholtzer’s pitch resulted in a warning to both benches by home plate umpire Ron Kulpa. It also resulted in Brett becoming my new favorite player. I also gained some respect for Bo Porter,who undoubtedly tasked the rookie with making a statement.
If Oberholtzer would have thrown at Martin’s head — that would have been different. But he didn’t. The youngster did what he was told to do. Then he pitched another excellent game. Unfortunately the Astros offense couldn’t get on track and the Rangers completed a 4-game sweep with a 2-1 win.
Yu Darvish had another excellent outing against the Astros as he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. But I was more impressed with the Astros young hurler who did what he had to do and gave his team a good chance to win.