'Too many strikes' get the best of Urquidy

June 5th, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- When you make your living by throwing strikes like Astros starter José Urquidy does, there’s a fine line between executing your pitches for outs and grooving balls down the middle that get turned into damage. 

Urquidy crossed that line Saturday when he surrendered home runs to Joe Panik in the fourth inning and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the fifth that accounted for five of the career-high-tying six runs scored against him in 4 1/3 innings in a 6-2 loss to the Blue Jays at Sahlen Field.

“He was finding too much of the plate,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “If he has a problem sometimes, it’s throwing too many strikes. He hung a slider to Guerrero, and the ball was supposed to be away and it came back. That was kind of the story. He was throwing too many strikes.” 

Urquidy (4-3), who had won his previous four decisions (in a span of five starts), was scoreless through three innings before things came undone in the fourth. Panik hit a three-run homer to make it 4-1, and Guerrero Jr.’s Major League-leading 18th homer -- a two-run shot in the fifth -- ended Urquidy’s day. 

“I was throwing a lot of pitches right through the middle that they hit a lot,” he said. “I was trying to do my best, but I left a lot of pitches right in the middle -- offspeed and fastball, too. The other thing is this park is pretty good for hitters. We lost, and I hope I throw well in the next outing.” 

Both home runs caught the heart of the plate, with Panik hitting a center-cut fastball over the right-field wall and Guerrero hitting a dead-center slider to left field. The only other time Urquidy allowed six runs came in his fifth Major League start on July 31, 2019, in Cleveland.  

Urquidy threw 50 of his 74 pitches for strikes.

“Basically, he was missing away early, but there were some pitches that looked like strikes from the dugout but [catcher Martín Maldonado] said they were balls,” Baker said. “The balance is the whole thing about pitching is about location, location, location. He just has to stay out of the heart of the plate. You’re in the heart of the plate, usually something bad is going to happen.” 

Díaz taken for X-rays 

Astros utility player Aledmys Díaz, who started in left field on Saturday, has managed to remain healthy this year after dropping substantial weight in the offseason. He wanted to be able to move around the field better and avoid the soft-tissue injuries that plagued him in his first two years with the Astros. 

Díaz, starting in left field in place of the injured Michael Brantley, was struck on the top of the left hand by a pitch thrown by Toronto starter Ross Stripling in the second inning and had to be removed from the game. Baker said Díaz was taken for imaging and there would be no update on his status until Sunday.

The Astros can ill afford to lose Díaz for any period of time. He’s having a solid year at the plate, hitting .278 with three homers and 18 RBIs. He had three hits, including a homer in Friday’s win over the Blue Jays. Saturday was Diaz’s sixth start in left field this year. He’s also started six at third base and second base, three at shortstop and right field and two at designated hitter. 

If Diaz does have to go on the injured list, that would open the door for Abraham Toro to come up from Triple-A Sugar Land to fill his spot.