Hunter Brown might live to see another day with Astros after outing vs Braves

The Astros pitcher rebounded nicely following a horrific start to the 2024 season.
Houston Astros pitcher Hunter Brown
Houston Astros pitcher Hunter Brown / Logan Riely/GettyImages

There's no denying that the biggest reason for the Houston Astros' struggles to begin the 2024 season has been the lack of production from the starting rotation. Houston's starters rank 26th in ERA and have the second-highest WHIP (1.59) in Major League Baseball.

But the Astros' rotation struggles have been exacerbated by the losses of so many starting pitchers to injury. Justin Verlander, Luis Garcia, and Framber Valdez have all missed time this season. But all signs point to Verlander's return sometime later this week.

When that happens, one of three pitchers will get the axe and be sent back to Triple-A Sugar Land. Was Hunter Brown's most recent outing against the Atlanta Braves enough to keep him around for a little while longer?

Hunter Brown might live to see another day with Astros after outing vs Braves

It's hard to be upset with Brown after what he did on Tuesday against the Braves. The right-hander went six innings, allowed just two runs on five hits while striking out three. The three free passes are something to improve upon, but Brown gave Astros manager Joe Espada a quality start. The Astros still lost the game, but if your offense can't score at least three runs for your starter, there are bigger issues at play.

Brown's previous outing was a disaster of epic proportions. The 25-year-old couldn't even make it out of the first inning before giving up nine runs on 11 hits in game last week against the Kansas City Royals. Espada pulled Brown after he threw 40 pitches and recorded just two outs.

Ronel Blanco has proven enough to show that he belongs, and of course Christian Javier has pitched well at the outset. That means when Verlander returns to the Astros active roster, one of Brown, J.P. France, or Spencer Arrighetti will be given the boot. All three have an ERA north 8.00, and none of the trio has been overly impressive during the early going.

With Valdez on his way back from injury as well, another one of those three pitchers will be sent back relatively soon anyway. Given how well Brown pitched on Tuesday, he's earned at least one more start. If he shows that the moment is too big, Valdez can bump him from the rotation when the southpaw returns from the IL.

The competition for holding on to that final spot in the Astros rotation is heating up with the impending return of both Verlander and Valdez. France will have a chance to prove that he should remain in the rotation when he takes the hill for Wednesday's series finale. France will need to improve following his previous outing that saw the right-hander walk four batters and allow eight hits.

If France does that again, he'll make this decision even easier.

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