Young Astros pitcher Hunter Brown gives the team a major arm. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena and Yordan Alvarez are at the heart of plenty of winning in Houston. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena brings a lot of determination. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker always tries to keep his team steady — and focused on the big prize. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros rookie Corey Julks is off to a strong start. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Young Houston Astros pitcher Hunter Brown has impressed with his calm and his stuff. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Yordan Alvarez always brings the power for the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Caption Houston Astros pitcher Hunter Brown looked anything but intimidated by Major League hitters as a rookie. (Photo by F. Carter Smith) Description
Houston Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena just keeps grabbing big moments. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros star Yordan Alvarez knows what kind of impact he can make (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros rookie Corey Julks is making an early impact. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker is a baseball lifer who's seen it all. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Hunter Brown does not do fear. The way this Houston Astros rookie pitches, it’s a safe bet Brown would go into that new Evil Dead movie with a twinkle in his blue eyes. And whistle right through a spooky graveyard. One thing’s for certain. Brown is not afraid of the world’s most elite batters.
Nerves aren’t something Hunter Brown apparently believes in.
He’ll spin off a curveball — anything but his staple pitch — on a 3-2 count against one of the Texas Rangers’ top hitters with the bases loaded. He’ll come back to the dugout after a shaky inning, after the Rangers grab the early lead against the defending world champs for the second straight night, and tell the entire dugout, “We’ve got a lot of game left.”
And he just might grow into an ace before his time. That is sure what the Astros’ 24-year-old pitcher has looked like in his last two starts. Yes, they happen to be only the fourth and fifth starts of his Major League Baseball career. (Hunter pitched for the Astros in September and October last season and already owns a world championship ring, but is still technically a rookie.) But sometimes the special ones arrive early.
And after Brown throws seven innings of no run baseball (the two runs are unearned) in a 8-2 Astros win over the Rangers that restores some sense of balance to the Lone Star State baseball world, it sure looks like he’s coming.
“He’s pitching with a lot of determination, a lot of fire,” Astros manager Dusty Baker says of the youngster who may be growing into this team’s potential third ace of future.
In his third start of the season, Brown moves the Astros to 7-8 on the season, quiets the rebuilt Rangers’ growing confidence and gets the ball to A1 ace Framber Valdez with a chance to win the series on Sunday Night Baseball. Is that enough for a 24-year-old rookie?
Brown is even inventing his own verbs. He calls what happens to him in the third inning, when the Rangers score two runs without hitting the ball out of the infield, getting baseballed.
“Sometimes you just get baseballed,” Brown says. “Stuff happens and you’ve just got to battle through it. And try to win the game.”
Hitters may soon call what happens to them after they face this Astros rookie as being Browned. As in attacked without fear of resume or game situation. Take that curveball he throws against Nathaniel Lowe in the third inning with the Rangers on the brink of blowing the game open. It is a beyond ballsy pitch.
And it leaves Lowe futilely swinging at air.
“The key in that game is that 3-2 curveball,” Baker says. “It takes a lot of confidence and nerve to throw that to a real good hitter.”
Brown’s never seemed to lack either of those attributes. There are stunt pilots with less guts.
“He’s pitching with a lot of determination, a lot of fire.” — Astros manager Dusty Baker on Hunter Brown
With the kid from Michigan pitching like a mini Justin Verlander, the Astros finally look like themselves again on this Saturday evening at Minute Maid Park. They come back to tie the game at two immediately after Brown’s long game pronouncement with Yordan Alvarez clanging a double off the old school out of town scoreboard in left field. They score five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning by keeping the pressure on some unremarkable Rangers relievers.
The signature at-bat of that spree?
That would be Yordan drawing a walk on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded. Rather than press for more, Major League Baseball’s RBI leader is as patient as a jungle cat stalking its prey. Yordan takes what Ian Kennedy gives him — a free RBI — and keeps the Astros’ big inning rolling, setting up a Jose Abreu RBI and a Jeremy Peña two run double.
“I don’t think in that situation, I really think about the situation: ‘Oh, I have the bases loaded, I need to do something big here,’ ” Alvarez explains in Spanish as relayed through Astros interpreter Jenloy Herrera. “Just try to go up there and look for a good pitch to hit. Make good contact. And I get a good result — good.
“Otherwise that’s not something I really think about that much.”
Yordan Alvarez does not need to think about what so many others obsess over. He just goes up there and does damage. In the most efficient way possible.
Hunter Brown Seizes an Astros Moment
Hunter Brown may not be that type of a once in a lifetime baseball unicorn. But this young pitcher brings plenty of gifts of his own. Including a sense of the moment — and that fearless embrace of it.
This young pitcher is already making the most of his pitches, getting through seven innings for the second straight start. Brown throws 99 pitches on this night and reaches 95 MPH on the radar gun in his last inning. He will leave the mound showing plenty of emotion.
Yes, Hunter Brown can get fired up. And his teammates are starting to get excited seeing him go to work on the regular too.
“I think just his aggressiveness,” Astros rookie catcher Yainer Diaz says when asked what jumps out about his battery mate. “And he’s told me every single time I see him a little bit down to just push him and motivate him. And tell him he’s doing well.
“Just push him through.”
Hunter Brown is pushing himself too. Without fear. Why worry? The ball’s in his hand. And he can make good things happen.