PHOENIX -- It’s not often that Astros manager Dusty Baker comes to the mound determined to pull a pitcher and winds up changing his mind. There was something different about this mound visit, though, with Baker looking into the eyes of starter José Urquidy and realizing the moment wasn’t too big for him. The game was still his.
“I was like, ‘I got this inning,’” Urquidy said after giving up a leadoff single in the sixth inning. “I’m going to throw this ball for a double play … I threw, I think, the perfect changeup to Tommy Pham, and we made a double play.”
“Sometimes you look in their face, and you can see fear, you can see desire, you can see heart,” Baker said. “You can see a lot of stuff by looking at him in the face and looking at him in the eye.”
- Games remaining (2): at AZ (2)
- Standings update: The Astros (88-72) are in second place in the American League West, one game behind the Rangers (89-71), who lost to the Mariners on Friday. Seattle (87-73) is one game behind Houston for the third and final AL Wild Card spot. The Astros hold the season tiebreaker against the Rangers, but not the Mariners.
- Magic number: 1 to clinch a spot in the postseason
Urquidy was a late replacement for rookie starter J.P. France, who was scratched because of a family emergency. Urquidy, whose five previous outings were in relief, held Arizona to two hits and three walks while throwing 70 pitches. Urquidy got a text message from pitching coach Josh Miller around lunch time informing him he was starting.
“That tells you the kind of player he is, the kind of competitor he is,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said. “Such short notice and he came out there and gave [it] his all. Dusty came out and kind of tested him and see where he was. He saw the conviction in Urquidy, and he wanted to stay in the game and he left him in the game. That’s what it’s all about.”
So what has to happen for them to make the postseason? We explain several scenarios involving multiple teams. But basically: If the Astros win on either Saturday or Sunday, they're in. If they lose both games, but the Mariners also lose both of their remaining games, then the Astros still make it. If the Astros lose both and the Mariners win one of their last two games, then the Astros are out.
The Astros are still in the hunt for the AL West title -- which would happen if they win both of their remaining games and either the Rangers lose both of their games to the Mariners, or the Rangers and Mariners split their final two games -- and send Justin Verlander to the mound Saturday.
“We have J.V. on the mound and we all know what he’s capable of doing,” catcher Martín Maldonado said. “I think, overall, we’ve just got to focus on us. I know it’s easier said than done. Everywhere you go, you see the scoreboard. We have to come with the same energy.”
The game was scoreless entering the sixth, when Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker singled and were on base with two outs. Abreu rocketed a 432-foot fly ball to center field that struck the yellow line and was initially called a homer. It was overturned after a replay review, and Abreu was instead awarded a double and two RBIs.
“Everybody here has the focus to win and try to get into the postseason,” Abreu said. “If that was the biggest hit I’ve gotten, congratulations to me. We continue.”
Still, there were a couple of tense moments that had the Astros gripping the dugout rails with white knuckles.
Peña saved a pair of runs in the eighth when he made a diving stop of a hard-hit Pham grounder and threw him out on a close play at first, with Abreu handling the throw at first on a bounce. That stranded runners at second and third base.
“I just know Tommy Pham is a good runner, and I know he was hustling down the line,” Peña said. “The situation of the game -- man on second and third and two outs, you kind of want to keep that ball on the infield. Worst comes to worst, only one run scores. You try to get the outs and get out the inning.”
In the ninth, a fielding error by second baseman Jose Altuve nearly came back to haunt the Astros. Needing one out to finish the game, closer Ryan Pressly gave up a Statcast-projected 410-foot fly ball to left-center field that barely stayed in the park. The ball would have not been a home run in only two of 30 parks -- Chase Field and Coors Field.
Pressly came back to get Jace Peterson to ground out to end the game, stranding the tying run on base.
“I was just trying to pick Jose [Altuve] up. Obviously, he felt terrible,” Pressly said. “You try to make the best pitch you possibly can, and I didn’t make the best pitch I possibly could. I actually made the worst pitch I possibly could. It ended up working out. A win’s a win.”