The Astros had one of the worst bullpens in baseball in 2012. Statistically, it has been even worse this season. Entering Thursday, the Astros’ 4.80 ERA ranked last out of 30 teams, and the relievers’ combined 1.48 walks and hits per innings pitched was tied with Philadelphia for last.

The Astros have been an improved team since mid-May, though, going 7-7 in their last 14 games following Thursday’s 7-5 win at Colorado. A settled starting rotation, improved situational hitting and a stronger bullpen have been at the center of the Astros’ step forward. And while the club’s collection of unproven relievers has started to believe it can pitch at the major league level, the pen crew also has begun to form an identity.

Guided by 32-year-old closer Jose Veras and Wesley Wright (the Astros’ longest-tenured player), rookies Paul Clemens and Jose Cisnero, journeyman Edgar Gonzalez, wild man Travis Blackley, sturdy Hector Ambriz and ex-starter Brad Peacock comprise an eight-man unit that has gained confidence and character while the club has played its best baseball of the season.