The Astros return to Houston on Sunday, as Brandon Bielak starts for the first time in over a year.
During the 2020 season, the Houston Astros heavily relied on underdeveloped talent with little to no experience. One of those players was Brandon Bielak, who made a big splash in his first season in 2020.
The right-hander started in three of his first five career games, posting a 1.69 ERA through 21.1 innings of work. Bielak was showing promise as rotational depth until he rolled into San Diego, where the Padres throttled him with seven runs in less than two innings.
From there, we didn’t see the same Bielak as many teams started to catch onto the then 24-year-old. In 2021, the righty has been a back and forth guy. While seeing most of his innings in Triple-A, the Astros have a much more established bullpen compared to last season.
Now, the 25-year-old will start in his first game this Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks at 7:10 p.m. for the first time since Sept. 5, 2020. In his last career start, Bielak worked through 3.2 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits.
The Diamondbacks have a mainly right-handed lineup consisting of only one switch-hitter in Ketel Marte, which may fare poorly for Bielak. The Astros’ hurler has given into a .247/.343/.462 slash line against righties this season in 110 plate appearances.
That .805 OPS against right-handers is in contrast to a .594 OPS for opposing left-handers in 81 plate appearances. While not a strikeout pitcher, Bielak will have to keep his walks down to go deep into his Friday start.
Bielak made his first career start against the Diamondbacks in early August last season, where he went five innings without allowing a run. While wanting to mirror this outing, the right-hander will look to counter left-hander Madison Bumgarner on Friday night.