'Put it on me': Baker owns call to pull Urquidy

August 16th, 2022

CHICAGO -- José Urquidy felt he could have gotten one more out, which is what made the events that unfolded in the eighth inning Monday night at Guaranteed Rate Field so undoubtedly frustrating for him and the Astros.

Urquidy had carved up the White Sox for seven scoreless innings, allowing four singles with no walks, and had needed only four pitches to get two outs to start the eighth. The game was his, until it wasn’t. AJ Pollock hit a dribbler down the third-base line to reach base with two outs, and Urquidy was yanked after 94 pitches.

Things quickly unraveled from there for the Astros, as relief pitcher Rafael Montero allowed all five batters he faced in the eighth to reach, including a two-run, game-tying double by Eloy Jiménez and a two-run single by Yoán Moncada, that sent the White Sox to a 4-2 come-from-behind win.

“That was tough to take,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker, whose team fell to 61-5 this year when leading after seven innings. “You can put it on me. It’s my decision ultimately, and it didn’t work.”

The decision to bring in Montero opened Baker to some criticism, since Montero threw 17 pitches Sunday against Oakland and gave up two runs and two hits. Baker said he wanted to stay away from set-up man Ryne Stanek, who hadn’t pitched since Friday.

Still, Baker said: “Montero was the freshest that we had. Montero has been great. Just these last two outings have been tough. We didn't want to go to [closer Ryan] Pressly that early because we didn’t want him to go multiple innings. We were trying to really try to stay away from him, too, and we didn’t have Stanek tonight. We tried to stay away from him tonight. We just lost.”

There was definitely an argument, too, to leave Urquidy in the game and let him get the last out of the eighth. He had just recorded two quick outs and gave up a weak infield single, so it wasn’t like he was getting knocked around. Plus, he had struck out Andrew Vaughn -- the next hitter -- twice already, but Vaughn greeted Montero with a double to put runners at second and third.

“We thought about it,” Baker said. “That was the fourth time through. [Vaughn] didn’t have good numbers at all against Montero. I know [Urquidy] struck him out the last couple of times, but sometimes you go by the numbers, sometimes you lose, you know what I mean? Tonight we lost.”

Urquidy, who has quality starts in 10 of his last 11 outings, said he wanted to try to finish off the White Sox in the eighth, which would have put Houston in the position for Pressly to pitch the ninth with a 2-0 lead.

“Yes, I was ready for that, but this is the decision of the manager and I respect that,” he said. “It’s part of baseball. I’m OK.”

Urquidy and 36-year-old Johnny Cueto were locked in a pitchers' duel until the eighth -- an appealing appetizer before Tuesday’s showdown between American League Cy Young candidates Justin Verlander and Dylan Cease. Cueto gave up two runs (one earned) and six hits in eight innings, shutting down the Astros after a first-inning RBI double by Alex Bregman.

"The problem was the guy on the other side,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “He pitched a heck of a game because we scouted him, but he was very, very tough. But a lot of times, if you score early and you don't add on, the other team's got ... two outs and nobody on and we end up scoring four. The game of baseball is that way. They're trying to add, and Johnny wouldn't let them. We would try to get even and Urquidy wouldn't let us. Just a really outstanding pitched game."