Urquidy dominant as Astros cruise to win

AL West leaders closing in on division crown

September 16th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- Astros starter José Urquidy turned in one of his strongest performances of the season -- and undoubtedly his best outing since returning from a two-month stint on the injured list -- in Wednesday’s 7-2 victory over the Rangers.

With the win, the Astros (85-60) clipped their magic number to 11 to clinch the AL West over Oakland with 17 games left for Houston.

Sidelined with right shoulder discomfort in late June, Urquidy did not pitch again for Houston until Sept. 3. In that start plus another on Sept. 8, Urquidy pitched decently, allowing two earned runs each time, but he didn’t make it to the sixth inning in either outing. Wednesday, he walked the first batter but retired 18 of the next 20 he faced, giving up only two hits and the lone walk in six innings. He struck out six.

“I wasn’t afraid to compete, I tried to throw everything through the zone and throw strikes,” Urquidy said. “I’m good right now, I was out for two months and that’s hard coming and throwing a big league game. You saw in the first game after my injury, I was a little loose with my command, with the catcher. But right now I feel more comfortable, I’ve thrown bullpens, I’ve got two games already after the injury, and I’ve got more confidence right now. I’ve gotten, more consistently, pitches in the zone, that’s me. I’m working on it and I’m [getting] better right now.”

In his first full season as a starter, the right-hander has allowed two or fewer earned runs in 13 of his 17 starts, posting a 3.38 ERA.

Other than Brock Holt’s leadoff triple off the right-field wall in the third inning, Urquidy was never in trouble. Holt scored when the next batter, Yonny Hernandez, grounded out, the first of nine consecutive outs for Urquidy.

“He maintained his velocity throughout the whole game -- the last time out his velocity dropped in like the third or fourth,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It shows that his arm strength’s coming back. He had very good changeup, his slider was good and just an overall good performance. But I was more impressed with the fact that he kept his velocity.”

Urquidy pitched with the lead most of the evening after the Astros scored three runs on a pair of homers by Jake Meyers and Marwin Gonzalez in the second inning. Kyle Tucker singled, doubled and homered to pace the Astros' offense.

Winning big

The Astros’ comfortable five-run margin Wednesday marked the 32nd time this season they have won by at least five runs, the second-most such blowouts in the American League behind Tampa Bay (34). Houston has also scored seven or more runs in 48 games, the second-most in the Majors behind the Rays (56).

In more than half of their 85 wins this season, the Astros have scored seven-plus runs; they’re 44-4 in that situation.

“I’m a believer that in baseball, hitting can be contagious, especially on our team, guys can get hot at any moment and that’s kind of what makes our lineup special,” Meyers said. “It kind of all happens at once with the entire team.”