ANAHEIM -- Astros starter José Urquidy has two starts remaining to build up his pitch count and strengthen his case for a spot in the team’s four-man pitching rotation in the American League Division Series.
Urquidy’s outing in Tuesday’s 10-5 win over the Angels at Angel Stadium -- his fourth start since he missed two months with a sore right shoulder -- was a step in the right direction, though manager Dusty Baker said fatigue led to a messy sixth inning that was capped by a three-run homer from Phil Gosselin.
By that time, the Astros had built a 10-1 lead on the strength of homers from Kyle Tucker, Aledmys Díaz, Jose Altuve and Martín Maldonado. With their 90th win, the Astros reduced their magic number to clinch the AL West division title to four over the second-place A’s and Mariners.
“I felt great,” Urquidy said. “I made a couple of mistakes there and left some pitches right in the middle. It’s baseball, but I’m not fatigued. I’m not tired. I’m ready for the playoffs and ready for the next games.”
Urquidy worked 5 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on six hits (two homers), with three strikeouts while throwing 79 pitches. He gave up a solo homer to Jack Mayfield in the second on a fastball. And in the sixth, he hung a curveball to Shohei Ohtani that was hammered for a single before Gosselin drilled a center-cut slider for a home run.
“Usually, when you start hanging stuff over and over, that’s one of the first signs of fatigue,” Baker said. “Like I said, we were trying to build his endurance up, especially with the lead we had. We tried to get him into the seventh because we’re going to need him. We were trying to take him to 85, 90 pitches. I think he went to 79 pitches this time and 70 pitches the time before that. We still have to work on his endurance.”
Urquidy missed all of July and August with his second shoulder injury of the season. He made only three rehab outings -- three innings at the Astros’ Spring Training complex on Aug. 19, four frames for Triple-A Sugar Land on Aug. 24 and five innings on Aug. 29. The Astros wanted him to make one more rehab start, but Zack Greinke’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis forced him back into the rotation on Sept. 3.
“He was out a while,” Baker said. “He didn’t have a very long of a rehab assignment. He was forced back into action. That’s all he needs, just endurance.”
Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. and left-hander Framber Valdez are locks for the playoff rotation, with rookie Luis Garcia likely in position to start a playoff game, too. Then there’s Greinke, who’s wobbly second half -- 6.00 ERA in his last eight starts -- could have him out of the ALDS rotation, especially if Urquidy finishes strong.
“My goal every outing is to be better day by day, and I hope to be in the playoffs and do a good job,” he said.
Urquidy is no stranger to the bright lights of October. He has a 2.81 ERA in eight career postseason games (four starts), including five scoreless innings in Game 4 of the 2019 World Series.
“I feel good where I’m at,” he said. “I’m going to focus on being ready for the playoffs and being physically ready to contribute to the success.”