HOUSTON – A rare fielding mistake by first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who won the Gold Glove last year in the American League, put Astros starter José Urquidy in trouble in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Mets at Minute Maid Park.
The bases were loaded with a knockout, resulting in a visit to the mound by throwing coach Josh Miller and receiver Martín Maldonado, who told him to breathe and stay calm. Easier said than done when you’re not the one on the mound, but Maldonado knew exactly what to say and which shots to call.
Seven of Urquidy’s next nine shots were fast balls as he hit Eduardo Escobar and JD Davis swinging to escape the mess and keep the Mets off the board. The Astros’ attack started there, backing Urquidy with three homers in an 8-2 win over the National League first team.
“The plan was to attack the frontcourt with a lot of intent in my fast balls and my corners,” said Urquidy. “Maldy told me to breathe and be calm.”
With Escobar up and bases charged, Urquidy threw him three quick balls to take the lead in the count, 1-2, before swinging him through a 2-2 curveball. All four of Davis’ jumps were fast, including a 96 mph warm-up in the zone that he missed for the final exit. Urquidy clenched his fist in a rare display of emotion.
“This was a crux of the game,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker. “Those guys, they can roll a lot of racing on you fast. When she hit the first guy, you’re still not out of the woods. The fact that he threw some well-placed quick balls at JD Davis, yes, he should have gotten pumped.
Urquidy threw a record 104 pitches in six innings, allowing for a four-stroke run against a Mets team that entered the day leading the NL in points per game (5.04) and base rate (.334). He shutout in the sixth before Pete Alonso hit his 20th homer of the season – a solo shot.
“His position was good, and he had a great change of ball and substitution,” Baker said. “His position was the key. He certainly helped him when he got out of trouble with the bases loaded. He threw some great breakpoints and some well-placed quick balls to get out of that trouble, and then our attack took over from there. It was a great evening against an excellent team. “
Since allowing six points (five earned) and 12 wins in 4 innings and 2/3 in a defeat to the Mariners on May 28, Urquidy is 2-1 with an ERA of 4.43 in four June starts, three of which were quality starts. The only bad start was another against the Mariners, who hit him by five points (four earned) in 4 innings and 1/3 on June 8.
Urquidy ditched the cutter he pitched in his first 11 starts of the season the last time he took the mound and on Tuesday he relied heavily on his four-stitch fastball in the area. He threw 72 quick balls, which represented 69% of his throws. He was throwing that launch 52 percent of the time before Tuesday.
“I was trying to compete and attack with my fastball and all my stuff,” he said. “I know they are good hitters right now. I’m on top. I knew it would be a good match for me. “
Maldonado said Urquidy’s fastball is his best pitch, which is why it was such a weapon on Tuesday.
“You set the quick ball, and that’s the court he can command and he can throw anywhere,” Maldonado said. “He has one of the best fastballs in the big leagues.”
With injured veteran Jake Odorizzi starting a rehab assignment Friday at Triple-A Sugar Land, Urquidy’s place in the rotation may be tenuous, but Maldonado says “not that fast” for those who imagine Urquidy out of rotation at any point. .
“He’s a guy who’s been here, he knows what he has to do to get back on track,” Maldonado said. “I know it’s a bit difficult at that time [5.95 ERA in April], but he’s recovering. He is a guy we trust a lot, a guy who has won three World Series. He is a boy we rely on ”.