José Ureña held his own against Frankie Montas on Friday in an unexpected pitchers’ duel that consisted of two righties who entered the game with ERAs above 8.00.
Ureña’s first quality start of the season -- and first since June 2019 -- was spoiled by a Detroit offense that mustered only four hits in its 3-0 loss Friday night at the Oakland Coliseum. The loss not only marked Ureña’s longest outing of the season, but also his third loss in as many starts.
Ureña and Montas went head-to-head in silencing each other’s lineups, until the fourth inning rolled around and the A’s got on the board with a lead that they never let escape.
But Friday’s game looked as if Ureña had turned over a new leaf.
"José was really good tonight, and he was feeling at the end he could have gone out there again,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. “He was even lobbying for an extra inning. He counted on his slider tonight. He had a pretty good fastball from the very beginning. Other than the walk to [Ramon] Laureano, he was in total command of his stuff and really gave us a chance to try to get back in that game by just keeping them limited.”
Ureña struck out a career-high eight batters, while 64 of his 96 pitches landed for strikes. His sinker accounted for 54.2% of his pitches and reached as high as 96.4 mph, according to Statcast.
His sinker gave the Oakland lineup a tough time. It registered as a called strike eight times in the game, while A’s hitters swung through it five times. The only pitch that fooled Oakland more was Ureña’s slider, which earned a called strike nine times.
Ureña was in need of a start that could change the narrative of how his season was going. In his first two starts, the 29-year-old failed to make it out of the fifth inning in either game and was subject to a lack of command that upped his walk rate.
“I think the adjustment I made benefited me because I didn't even think about it,” Ureña said of his improved control against Oakland. “We started playing around on being behind in the count, on falling behind in the count. It's tough when you're behind in the count and you have a pretty good hitter.”
The adjustment worked out well, as Hinch called the start “vintage Ureña.”
"Whenever he's right, he's challenging contact. And he got some swings-and-misses, got some called third strikes,” Hinch said. "He's been a strike-thrower and he's attacked the strike zone with a pretty good sinker and high velocity. We haven't seen a ton of that so far in his first couple of starts, so [it was good] to see him competing on attack mode.”
Hinch announced pregame that Spencer Turnball was nearing his return to the rotation, possibly for the upcoming series vs. Pittsburgh, which begins Tuesday.
A six-man rotation is in play upon Turnball’s return, but Ureña’s rough couple of outings to open the season had that in question.
There are still plenty of games before a final decision is made regarding the rotation, according to Hinch. The time frame gives Ureña another chance to replicate his career night in order to keep his arm in the rotation.