Sean Pendergast

If the Glory Run Is Over, Four Reasons to Watch the Houston Astros the Rest of 2024

This might be the last dance with Alex Bregman for Astros fans this summer.
This might be the last dance with Alex Bregman for Astros fans this summer. Photo by Jack Gorman
For the Houston Astros, after an abysmal 7-19 start to the Joe Espada Era this season, things have been better, but not enough to make a significant dent in the AL West standings. In fact, as the Astros woke up on Tuesday morning, they were facing their largest deficit in the standings behind the division leading Seattle Mariners all year, nine games back.

At some point, sooner rather than later, we will probably need to come to grips with the fact that the current title window is either closed, or in serious need of a reset to keep from closing soon. In short, we might be faced with our first irrelevant September of baseball around here in a decade. So, if that ends up being the case, and you're a fan of the Astros, what are the reasons to keep watching them for the rest of the 2024 season?

Good question! I've got four reasons that move the needle for me:

4. Hunter Brown, future ace?
There is no pitcher in the organization right now to whom there is more future hope attached. When Brown was struggling at the beginning of the season, as his ERA skyrocketed to over 9.00, there had to be serious thought to sending him to Sugar Land to work some things out. However, somewhere along the way, he began mixing in a sinker, and now his ERA is just above 5.00. That's still not great, but in his last five starts, all of them quality starts of at least six innings, Brown has an ERA of 1.74, and a strikeout to walk ratio of 5 to 8. Brown's development this season is imperative, independent of how the Astros' finish. He still has four more seasons under contractual team control.

3. Ronel Blanco, is this really real?
Blanco has easily been the Astros' most consistent starting pitcher all season. When the Astros were swept in the season opening series versus the Yankees, Blanco got the team its first win with a complete game no hitter against Toronto. Currently, Blanco sits at 7-2 with a 2.43 ERA, after a Father's Day outing where he tossed seven more no hit innings against Detroit. Sandwiched into his season was a ten game suspension for illegal substances inside his mitt, but he served his time, and aside from one bad outing, Blanco has not skipped a beat. Like Brown, Blanco works cheap for the next several years. If this is who he is, then wow, what a find.

2. Contract triggers to be aware of
Dana Brown is certainly keeping an eye on this, so why don't we? The Astros have two contracts for veteran pitchers where usage is going to factor into whether they're back in 2025. In at least one of these two cases, it's questionable whether Astro fans want him back. Let's start there -- reliever Ryan Pressly's 2025 contract for $14 million kicks in when he gets to 50 appearances. Currently, he's at 29. $14 million for the current version of Pressly is not really money well spent. The other contract to watch is Justin Verlander, whose $35 million player option kicks in when he gets to 140 innings. Currently, he's on pace for 130 innings pitched, but he's missed time with shoulder and neck injuries. If he stays healthy, Verlander should hit his innings target. It is worth noting that the Mets would pay $17.5 million of Verlander's $35 million salary for 2025.

1. Alex Bregman farewell tour
We've had to do this too many times over the course of this recent run of dominance, with popular players like Charlie Morton, George Springer, and Carlos Correa leaving in free agency. This offseason, it looks like we are headed that same direction with third baseman and H-E-B commercial icon Alex Bregman. Recently, MLB insider Ken Rosenthal forecasted a "five to ten percent chance" that Bregman returns to the Astros. So enjoy him while you got him, Astro fans! It looks like the Bregman Era will be winding down this September.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast, on Instagram at instagram.com/sean.pendergast, and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast