It’s an embarrassment of riches.
It’s not like the Astros don’t already have six starters that just about any other MLB team would drool over. The Astros’ starting pitcher team ERA is the best in the AL at 3.04 while employing six different starters almost all year.
And now here comes Hunter Brown. In his first MLB appearance, the just-turned 24-year-old rookie threw a three-hit, six-inning shutout, showing remarkable poise and surprising control.
Brown’s MLB career started auspiciously. In the first inning, he began his career striking out superstars Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, his first two batters faced.
Brown retired his first eight batters, striking out four until Brown finally gave up the first hit in his career to Bubba Thompson. Thompson was later thrown out by Martin Maldonado trying to steal second for the third out in inning three.
Meanwhile, the Astros took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning on an RBI single by Martin Maldonado, scoring Trey Mancini.
Brown escaped trouble in the fourth and fifth innings unscathed. In the fourth, Semien opened with a hard-hit double to left-center field and moved to third on a Corey Seager groundout. Nathaniel Lowe next crushed a 95 MPH grounder that was adeptly handled by Yuli Gurriel playing in that kept Semien on third. Adolis Garcia ended the inning with a 107.5 MPH grounder to Alex Bregman.
In the fifth inning, Brown got the first two outs on grounders but walked Kole Calhoun on a 3-2 count on seven pitches. Calhoun got to second on an Ezequiel Duran single, but Brown escaped damage by striking out Bubba Thompson swinging on a 3-2, 95.7 MPH four-seamer.
Brown’s line in his first MLB appearance was impressive. He went six complete innings, giving up no runs on three hits, one walk, and five strikeouts.
In some ways, Brown confounded expectations. According to most analysts, Brown’s strengths as a pitcher are his velocity and stuff. We expected great hit-and-miss ability. His Achilles heal is supposedly his command.
Yet today, Brown pleasantly surprised with excellent control, walking only one, getting 14 of 21 first-pitch strikes, and throwing 70.9% of all his pitches for strikes.
So much for rookie jitters.
But to be fair, the Rangers did manage to make good contact against Brown. Seven batted balls were hit for 100+ MPH or more, and three were hit at 94.8 - 100 MPH. Brown only managed a relatively modest eight swinging strikes out of 79 total pitches. Brown was helped by keeping the ball on the ground, getting ten groundouts against only two flyouts.
Brown showed his full arsenal, getting eight outs on four-seamers that ranged between 95-97 MPH, seven outs on curves, and one out each on the slider and changeup. One of his sliders came in at an almost unbelievable 95 MPH.
Following Brown, Astros relievers Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris, and Rafael Montero continued the Astros shutout of the Rangers, throwing a perfect inning each, respectively.
Here’s a Hunter Brown 4-seam strikeout.
And here’s how his mechanics look compared to another notable Astros starter.
Hunter Brown vs. (his idol) Justin Verlander, Mechanics. pic.twitter.com/x8AKa1Q90C— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 6, 2022
There was controversy in the eighth inning when Jose Altuve was called out trying to take home on a short pop-up by Yordan Alvarez. The original call stood after review, although from every angle except one, it appeared that Altuve was easily safe. If Altuve could have pulled it off, it would have been the shortest sacrifice fly in history most likely.
The Astros and Rangers meet again tomorrow at 7:10 CT.