'Drastic change' for Velasquez in 4th start
Astros rookie goes career-high 6 1/3 innings in no-decision vs. Yankees
HOUSTON -- Scrolling through his Twitter feed the day before his fourth Major League start, Astros rookie Vincent Velasquez found a quote from "The Sandlot" and retweeted it: "Man, this is baseball. You gotta stop thinking."
Velasquez said he played as the quote from the character Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez suggests on Friday, tossing the best start of his brief Major League career in a 3-2 loss to the Yankees.
"I'm actually pretty excited about today," said Velasquez, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Astros' No. 4 prospect. "All the other starts I wasn't having fun. But today, I really locked in and went out there and was myself."
Solving the inflated-pitch-count problems that plagued him in his first three starts, Velasquez made it past the fifth inning for the first time in his Major League career, limiting the Yankees to five hits in 6 1/3 innings while inducing eight flyouts. He threw just 89 pitches in that span, a stellar mark after needing 43 pitches to escape the first inning of his previous start in Seattle.
"I thought he did everything he could to get through," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "He pitched just above the barrel and got a lot of fly balls. Pounded the zone, got some early outs. Just a really, really good start to build on for him. That's his best outing, his best stuff."
With the help of catcher Hank Conger and some "little signals and gestures," Velasquez was able to handcuff the Yankees for much of the game until back-to-back one-out singles ended his night in the seventh.
Velasquez even started to mix in a new pitch, a slider, to give hitters a different look than his powerful fastball. Though he said he only threw it once on Friday -- which led to a swing and miss in the dirt -- Velasquez said it's a pitch he hopes he continues to develop through his rookie campaign.
"That was a drastic change from my other starts," Velasquez said. "I'm heading in the right direction now. Getting my feet wet a little bit, going more than five, something I was really impressed with. It's pretty much moving on forward from here on."