HOUSTON -- Has rookie right-hander Jose Urquidy put himself on the map for a possible spot in the Astros' postseason bullpen? Considering the struggles of some of Houston's other relief pitchers, Urquidy's crisp outing Wednesday might force him into the conversation.
Urquidy, pitching for the first time since throwing four innings in relief Thursday against Seattle, spun five innings in the Astros' 5-3 loss to the A's and allowed just one hit -- a leadoff homer in the fourth inning to Marcus Semien. Urquidy was starting one of two games remaining in which the schedule won't allow the Astros to use one of their top four starting pitchers.
"I think it's the best he's thrown while he's been a big leaguer, and that's encouraging against a really good offense," Astros manager AJ Hinch said.
With Brad Peacock injured and his status for the postseason up in the air, there could be a bullpen spot to win. Also, Joe Biagini gave up six runs, including three homers, on Tuesday without recording an out. Chris Devenski allowed two runs Tuesday and has been hit or miss.
Urquidy struck out nine through four innings and finished with a career-high 10 punchouts. He threw 82 pitches, relying heavily on a slider he used to get 11 swings and misses. Urquidy, 24, has been working on his slider grip in recent days.
"I felt really good with all my pitches, throwing in the zone," he said. "I was good with my breaking balls and fastball, too, and I think that was working for me."
Urquidy, who is ranked as Houston's No. 12 prospect by MLB Pipeline and started the season at Double-A when he was known as Jose Hernandez, could provide length as well as the ability to draw some swings and misses from the bullpen in October.
"You're allowed a mistake or two, but he pitched as well as anyone against the A's this year that we've had," Hinch said. "I'm encouraged by that. He gave us everything we set out to have him do and more. The punchouts were extreme, but his effectiveness was legit."
Urquidy has thrown a career-high 135 innings this year, and the Astros had considered shutting him down. Hinch was adamant Urquidy wasn't going to throw beyond five innings Wednesday.
"I've got that kid's career in my hands, and I'm not going to stretch him any further," Hinch said.
Josh James, who's probably on the playoff roster bubble, followed Urquidy and gave up four runs, allowing all four batters he faced to score. Prior to this outing, the hard-throwing James had allowed one earned run and struck out 10 batters in four innings since coming off the injured list on Sept. 1.
James gave up a homer to Sean Murphy and an infield hit to Marcus Semien, hit Matt Chapman on the back and was pulled after Matt Olson's two-run double to right field.
"The inning unraveled with the two-strike homer to Murphy on a breaking ball that wasn't really executed," Hinch said. "He throws a good one, he's got a better chance. He's punched out a lot of guys in his outings since he's come off the injured list. I think tonight it got away from us a little bit."
James said he got out of his delivery and his arm action was too long, which has been something he's been working on lately.
"By the time I realized it, it was a little late," he said. "Just go back to work tomorrow and be ready when my name is called."
Despite getting homers from George Springer and Martin Maldonado for the second game in a row, the Astros lost their second in a row to the A's to fall a half-game behind the Yankees for best record in the American League. Houston's magic number to clinch the AL West remains 8.