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Astros: Michael Brantley has gotten better with age

Jun 13, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter Michael Brantley (23) looks to the Houston Astros dugout after hitting a double during the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter Michael Brantley (23) looks to the Houston Astros dugout after hitting a double during the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Like a fine wine, the Houston Astros have gotten their money’s worth with the signing of aging outfielder Michael Brantley. The left-hander has been nothing but excelling in his new home of Houston since 2019, and while returning to an old rival’s field in Minnesota, Brantley continued his menace against the Twins.

Brantley returned from the injured list last series against the Boston Red Sox, while knees and hamstrings have bothered him in his past. Manager Dusty Baker has granted rest days, early exits and a DH role with Brantley winding back into an everyday role. On Sunday, he slashed 4-for-5 with two runs and four RBI in the Astros 14-3 rout of the Twins.

The left-hander hit 8-for-11 in the series with five RBI, three doubles, two walks and two runs. While missing time due to injury, it will be a tough case for Brantley to make the All-Star team as a reserve, but he has a few weeks to boost his campaign.

Michael Brantley has been better since he left Cleveland.

Injuries aren’t a new thing for Brantley. While being one of the few pure hitters left in the game, his career has been overshadowed by stints on the injured list. Even during the 2016 World Series for the Cleveland Indians, Brantley wasn’t a key contributor for the American League juggernaut, as he dealt with ankle and shoulder issues.

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After electing free agency after the 2018 season, the Astros signed Brantley to a two-year deal; just making that team even more talented. The left-hander had a career OPS of .781 in Cleveland, and entering Sunday, Brantley has an .862 OPS with Houston. The sample sizes are very different, but even with age and small injuries, the 34-year-old has been underrated as an Astro.

We have seen one All-Star appearance in Brantley’s tenure in Houston, while 2020 didn’t offer the accolade. In 2019, he slashed .311/.372/.503 with 22 home runs over 148 games. We probably won’t see the sample size in 2021, but through 46 games thus far, the left-hander is hitting .333/.378/.495 with just three long balls. There is a case for the veteran to make it to the fall classic, but the Astros can just sit back and admire how much better Brantley has been in Houston.

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The Astros will add Lance McCullers Jr. back to the roster on Tuesday, as he makes his first start off the injured list with Jake Odorizzi piggybacking him. They will still look to a six-man rotation over the next 20-game stretch, as Odorizzi will start the following Monday.

Houston has this Monday off, as the travel home to open a two-game series against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. Zack Greinke will start Wednesday’s game at 7:10 p.m.

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