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Lineup Leads Charge, Astros Best Rays 17-4(!)

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MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was a fun game to watch, wasn’t it? It felt refreshing for a change not to worry much about a game on a relaxful Saturday evening. Hunter Brown pitched quite well and the offense put on arguably its best showing of the season, even if five of those runs occurred with a backup catcher on the mound. Hey, it still counts.

With rumors swirling about the Astros exploring a possible reunion with Justin Verlander, Brown did his best impression of his former teammate, throwing six innings of two-run ball. The rookie right-hander allowed four hits and two walks while striking out four. Much like Cristian Javier on Friday, Brown’s performance this weekend was a much needed boost. An interesting item of note was the sweeper that Brown utilized, a pitch he has been working on in recent months, as noted by Eno Sarris of The Athletic.

While Statcast notes that he only threw it seven times, Brown’s sweeper adds another dimension to his repertoire. I am curious to see how he utilizes it in his upcoming starts and if it becomes a reliable option, especially against right-handed hitters with its glove side break. It isn’t a secret that Brown’s standard slider has struggled with a .544 wOBA in July, so a “true” slider, as Brown calls it, could help reverse the tide on that front.

But the story of the game was the lineup, which scored at least one run in all but one frame Saturday. José Abreu homered for the second consecutive game, now with 10 on the season. To be honest, I wasn’t sure for a while if we would see a double digit home run total from Abreu, but, thankfully, here we are. Yordan Alvarez had his first home run since returning from the IL, with a dinger on June 7 against the Blue Jays being his last. Yainer Díaz, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman all homered as well. Chas McCormick continued to look dynamite at the plate. Even Jake Meyers had three hits. In fact, the only starter in the lineup who did not record a single hit was Kyle Tucker.

Overall, it was a fun game for the Astros, now only one game back of the Rangers in the AL West. That said, Texas did bolster its rotation by acquiring Max Scherzer from the Mets on Saturday evening. Considering how little has gone right for Houston this season, however, the fact that the Astros trail by only one game for the division lead is encouraging. Another starter — Verlander or someone else — would go a long way, especially as Framber Valdez, Javier, and Brown have all had a rough go of it lately. But this game most importantly provided a snapshot of what this lineup looks like at near full strength.