Why Houston Astros narrowly avoiding history was best-case scenario

After losing the first two games of the series against the A's this week, the Astros looked to avoid the sweep and bounce back with Hunter Brown on the hill. And boy did they.

Hunter Brown pitched 5 no-hit innings leading to a crucial 6-2 win over Oakland. Brown had only thrown 78 pitches when manager Dusty Baker decided to make the call to the bullpen. Which was a controversial talking point after the game.

When asked about his decision to pull Brown after the fifth inning, Baker explained that Hunter's pitch count would have only allowed him to go one more inning, regardless of the no-hitter possibility.

Baker elaborated, saying it's been a struggle for Brown recently (24 earned runs in his last 30 innings prior to Wednesday) and he wanted to get him out of the game on a high note. Especially with a rested bullpen and an off-day on Thursday.

With one down in the 9th inning, closer Ryan Pressly allowed the first hit of the game. And it might have been the best thing for the Astros. Instead of celebrating a combined no-hitter while losing a crucial series to the A's, the team can keep their focus on taking care of business against the Royals this weekend.

Be sure to check out the video above as we discuss what Brown's performance means moving forward, if Baker made the right decision to pull Hunter Brown, and why missing out on another no-hitter might be for the best long-term.

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And listen to The Bench with John Granato and Lance Zierlein weekday mornings on ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 FM.

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With the end of the regular season in sight, the Houston Astros host the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, coming off a huge walk-off 2-1 win against the Orioles.

Two players from the finale against Baltimore really stood out for the 'Stros. Jeremy Pena, who had a clutch double late in the game, and Cristian Javier.

Javier struck out 11 batters over 5 innings surrendering only one run, which was exactly what the Astros needed in possibly the most important game of the regular season.

Both Pena and Javier were critical pieces to the Astros title in 2022, and it looks like they're rounding into form at just the right time.

Javier's struggles have caused many to question who would be the team's third starter in the postseason, behind Framber Valdez and Justin Verlander. Let's put this to bed right now, it's Javier.

This should be everything you need to know. Let's start with Hunter Brown. Brown has given up 5 earned runs or more in 4 of his last 7 starts.

How about JP France? France has surrendered 5 or more earned runs in 3 of his last 5 games.

However, Cristian Javier hasn't allowed 5 or more runs in a start since July 3. Javier may only give you 5 innings, but that's actually pretty common for starters in the playoffs. Teams typically remove their starters before the third time through the order.

Prime Time Pena

While the power hasn't been there for Pena this year, he is swinging the bat much better of late. Over his last 30 games, he's hitting .325 while slugging .453. Pena may only have 10 bombs on the year, but he's getting on base and hitting plenty of doubles.

If these two can contribute at a similar level to last postseason, the sky is the limit for the 2023 Astros.

Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion!

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Listen to The Bench with John Granato and Lance Zierlein weekday mornings on ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 FM.

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