In his first big-league action in 14 months, Michael Brantley displayed the acumen that earned him the moniker, "the Professional Hitter." Though he finished 0-4, Brantley's quality of contact and at-bats, especially from the left side, demonstrated an element the Astros lineup has been lacking this season.
In the top of the 2nd, Brantley made his first MLB plate appearance in 14 months. He took the first four pitches of the at-bat, demonstrating the zone discipline he has always possessed. Though the count was even at 2-2, Brantley easily could have walked on four pitches had they been correctly called.
In the fifth pitch of the at-bat, he grounded out to second. His 102.2 mph exit velocity and .510 xBA were a good sign.
Brantley grounded into a double play in the top of the 4th. He still hit the ball hard at 99.1 mph, but got on top of it with a -7 launch angle.
In the top of the 6th, Uncle Mike just missed a slider, flying out to right, again with an upper 90's exit velo.
Brantley lined out to end the top of the 7th in what was his best hit of the night. Brantley fell behind 0-2 before laying off three straight pitches out of the zone to work the count full. He fouled off a cutter on the black to stay alive. He scalded the seventh pitch of the at-bat to second at 104.1 mph, good for a .560 xBA, but was retired on an at 'em ball.
All four of Brantley's at-bats ended in hard hit (exit velocity over 95 mph) baseballs, with an average exit velocity of 100.8 mph. That is simply unheard of for a 36-year-old coming off of a 14-month rehab.
His plate discipline was great as well. Brantley's ability to work counts deepens Houston's lineup and forces opposing starters to work even harder.
Brantley will DH for the Astros today, and if his quality of contact last night is sustained, he'll definitely pick up a hit or two along the way tonight.