Perfect through 5, Ureña 'had everything' against Tigers

June 6th, 2024

ARLINGTON -- José Ureña walked off the mound toward the Rangers' dugout and tipped his cap to the crowd.

On a team full of superstar pitchers -- most of whom are on the injured list at the moment like Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom -- it was Ureña who received a standing ovation from the 29,748 fans at Globe Life Field on Wednesday night.

It was well deserved.

“That was a great feeling,” Ureña said. “When you get out there, everybody puts a little piece together, and we did a good job for the fans. It’s something that they appreciate and they love.”

Ureña took a perfect-game bid into the sixth inning, retiring the first 15 batters he faced in order before surrendering a solo homer to Tigers rookie Justyn-Henry Malloy to lead off the sixth inning. He ultimately allowed just one hit and one walk over a season-high 6 2/3 innings as Texas cruised to a 9-1 win over Detroit.

“How unfortunate that we couldn't make it nine [perfect innings],” catcher Jonah Heim joked. “He had everything. He could throw his two-seamer wherever he wanted, and it helps that he throws it about 98-99 mph. We had a lot of quick outs. His slider was working, and the changeups. When he fell behind, he made a pitch when he needed to. One pitch we would take back there, or it could’ve been a pretty fun night.”

Ureña joined Scherzer (seven shutout vs. Anaheim on Aug. 14, 2023) as the only Texas pitchers in the past two seasons (2023-24) to allow one or fewer hits in an outing of at least 6 2/3 innings.

He also matched his season high with six strikeouts, overpowering Tigers hitters with 11 whiffs.

“The last thing we wanted to do was get swept,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “So great effort by him. [The ovation] was well earned, to go out there and do what he did. I might’ve been in a box there a little bit if he hadn't given up a hit. His pitch count was pretty good, so it was gonna get interesting there.”

Ureña has been a pleasant surprise for the Rangers this season.

The right-hander signed a Minor League deal with Texas on Jan. 10 and broke camp with the big league club, claiming one of the final roster spots.

He opened the season in the bullpen, posting a 4.35 ERA in 10 appearances before being forced into the rotation due to a plethora of injuries to the staff. He, like many others, stepped up to the pitching rubber. In six starts, Ureña has a 2.84 ERA with 21 strikeouts against just eight walks.

“I wouldn't say it’s surprising,” Heim said. “We saw what he was capable of in Spring Training, and we knew that if we gave him some innings, he was going to perform well. The stuff is there. When you're throwing 97 mph sinkers, it's going to work in your favor most of the time. With him, it's just getting ahead of guys and finishing them, and he's done a really good job of that.”

Not to put the cart before the horse, but Bochy and pitching coach Mike Maddux will likely have tough decisions to make in the coming weeks regarding the rotation. Jon Gray is expected to come off the injured list next week, and Scherzer soon after.

Bochy isn’t worried about any of that though. He’ll figure that out when the time comes.

“It's very exciting, especially [with] how well we've thrown the ball already,” Heim said. “You see the big names that are coming back soon, and it makes my job a lot of fun. Each and every one of our guys that's either a starter or has been out of the ‘pen, it's been a pleasure to work with them this year. They've done an outstanding job for us, kept us in a lot of ballgames. If it wasn't for them, we could be in a bigger hole here in the division. They’ve kept us afloat. Hopefully the offense can build off of today and give them some help.”