Sports

The Five Most Important Players Fueling the Astros Resurgence

Talk about turning around a slow start, Alex Bregman has been on fire in June.
Talk about turning around a slow start, Alex Bregman has been on fire in June. Photo by Jack Gorman
After their sweep of the Rockies on Wednesday, the Astros found themselves with a .500 record for the first time this season and fewer than five games out of first place in the AL West. They have won seven straight including an impressive sweep of the Baltimore Orioles. This all coming after an embarrassing loss to the White Sox and a first (nearly) half of the season marred by poor relief pitching, injuries and brutal clutch hitting.

Now, suddenly, they find themselves in a reasonable position as we approach the All-Star break and the trade deadline. GM Dana Brown has insisted they will be buyers at the deadline and the Astros have preached that they are better than their record has indicated. That remains to be seen, but there are a few players whose recent success have directly contributed to the team's resurgence as of late.

Alex Bregman

There are slow starts and then there is whatever happened to the looming free agent third baseman this year. After an absolutely brutal two-month start to the season, June has been very very good for Bregman. This month, Bregman is slashing .363/.427/.525 with a .952 OPS. The end result is his season OPS is now more respectable (.734) and his prospects for landing a huge deal in free agency are trending upward. Having a healthy and performing Bregman in the lineup changes the strategy for opposing teams, even when Yordan Alvarez is slumping as he is at the moment. If Bregman can sustain this level of play, the Astros will be in good shape for the second half of the season.

Mauricio Dubon

For a guy who basically never played first base, Dubon has turned into a hell of a first baseman. After the release of Jose Abreu, Jon Singleton became the default everyday guy on first. But, his struggles to hit for average continued to be a cause for concern. Enter Swiss Army Knife Dubon, who appears to be able to play virtually any position on the field. His offensive numbers remain starting caliber with a .292 average, but his eye-popping defense at first has been the biggest and most pleasant surprise. If he can continue to platoon with Singleton, he will likely get nearly starter minutes playing various spots around the diamond and in the outfield on his way to being the best utility man in baseball yet again.

Bryan Abreu

We all can admit breathing a sigh of relief when Josh Hader began to turn around his rough start to the season, but what about Abreu. Just a quick recap. In his first 10 games, he had a 5.40 ERA allowing 6 runs on 11 hits. He struck out 11, but he walked 7. Fast forward to the last 10 games. His ERA is .92 and he has allowed 1 run on 5 hits. He is still walking too many (6), but he has been the overpowering pitcher we all saw dominate in 2023. Improving the vaunted back end of the bullpen was an absolute necessity and the Astros have done it without making any personnel moves whatsoever.

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Hunter Brown has found his groove on the mound.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Hunter Brown

Seven straight quality starts. Brown has been what everyone hoped he would be when he entered the majors in 2023. His early season struggles began with an 0-4 start and an ERA near 10. But in early May, he added a sinker back into his rotation of pitches and he's been lights out with an ERA of 2.21 and a record of 5-1. His season ERA has shrunk to 4.37 as a result. Having a stable, quality pitcher on the mound every five days has really changed the dynamics for the Astros. They already had Ronel Blanco and Framber Valdez remains solid at the top of the rotation. But when you lose Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy, nevermind Justin Verlander (though his is likely significantly less serious) and you still find a way to win games, you must have a really deep pitching staff. Brown is certainly among them and, lately, he's been as good as any arm on the team.

Spencer Arrighetti

Last year, it was J.P. France emerging from obscurity to help stabilize an ailing rotation. This year it is Arrighetti, but one key difference is Arrighetti is a traditional highly-ranked prospect whereas France was older and came out of essentially nowhere. Regardless, Arrighetti has been remarkably steady as a rookie starter in yet a season with even more and more critical injuries than 2023. With Wednesday's 10 strikeout performance over seven innings, he has proven he can hold his own at this level and that is a huge contribution considering the injury luck of this pitching staff.

Honorable Mention: Joey Loperfido

Sometimes, a dude just hits. Loperfido, who surprised virtually everyone in camp, has just continued to hit. We have yet to see the power he has shown in the minors, but since coming up originally as a consideration at first base despite rarely playing there in the minors, he has been remarkably consistent at the plate. Just as importantly, his glove work in the field has been nothing short of incredible. Plus, it gives manager Joe Espada another lefty bat to work with.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke