Urquidy stymies red-hot Mets in statement win

June 22nd, 2022

HOUSTON -- A rare fielding error by first baseman Yuli Gurriel, last year’s Gold Glove winner in the American League, put Astros starter José Urquidy in a tough spot in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Mets at Minute Maid Park. 

The bases were loaded with one out, prompting a mound visit from pitching coach Josh Miller and catcher Martín Maldonado, who told him to breathe and remain calm. Easier said than done when you’re not the one on the mound, but Maldonado knew exactly what to say -- and what pitches to call.

Seven of the next nine pitches Urquidy threw were fastballs as he struck out Eduardo Escobar and J.D. Davis swinging to escape the mess and keep the Mets off the board. The Astros’ offense took it from there, backing Urquidy with three homers in an 8-2 win over the top team in the National League.

“The plan was to attack the strike zone with a lot of intent in my fastballs and my curveball,” Urquidy said. “Maldy told me to breathe and be calm.”

With Escobar up and the bases loaded, Urquidy threw him three fastballs to get ahead in the count, 1-2, before getting him to swing through a 2-2 curveball. All four pitches to Davis were fastballs, including a 96 mph heater up in the zone that he missed for the final out. Urquidy pumped his fist in a rare display of emotion.

“That was a pivotal point of the game,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Those guys, they can reel off a bunch of runs on you in a hurry. When he struck out the first guy, you’re still not out of trouble. The fact that he threw some well-located fastballs on J.D. Davis, yeah, he should have been pumped up.”

Urquidy threw a career-high 104 pitches in six innings, allowing one run on four hits against a Mets team that entered the day leading the NL in runs per game (5.04) and on-base percentage (.334). He carried a shutout into the sixth before Pete Alonso clubbed his 20th homer of the season -- a solo shot. 

“His location was good, and he had a very good breaking ball and changeup,” Baker said. “His location was the key. It certainly helped when he got out of trouble with the bases loaded. He threw some outstanding breaking balls and some well-located fastballs to get out of that trouble, and then our offense took over from there. It was a very good night against a very good team.”

Since allowing six runs (five earned) and 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the Mariners on May 28, Urquidy is 2-1 with a 4.43 ERA in four June starts, three of which have been quality starts. The lone bad start was another against the Mariners, who touched him for five runs (four earned) in 4 1/3 innings on June 8. 

Urquidy ditched the cutter he had been throwing in his first 11 starts of the season the last time he took the mound, and on Tuesday, he relied heavily on his four-seam fastball up in the zone. He threw 72 fastballs, which accounted for 69 percent of his pitches. He was throwing that pitch 52 percent of the time prior to Tuesday.

“I was trying to compete and attack with my fastball and all my stuff,” he said. “I know they’re good hitters right now. They’re on top. I knew it was going to be a good match for me.”

Maldonado said Urquidy’s fastball is his best pitch, which is why it was such a weapon Tuesday. 

“Establish the fastball, and that’s the pitch he can command and can throw anywhere,” Maldonado said. “He has one of the best fastballs in the big leagues.”

With injured veteran Jake Odorizzi beginning a rehab assignment on Friday at Triple-A Sugar Land, Urquidy’s spot in the rotation could be tenuous, but Maldonado says “not so fast” for those who envision Urquidy out of the rotation any time soon. 

“He’s a guy that’s been here, he knows what he needs to do to get himself back on track,” Maldonado said. “I know it’s kind of hard, that period [5.95 ERA in April], but he’s bouncing back. That’s a guy that we trust a lot, a guy that has three World Series wins. It’s a guy we rely on.”