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José Urquidy’s Return To The Strike Zone

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MLB: World Series-Atlanta Braves at Houston Astros Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros came away with an important Game 2 victory last night, thanks in large part to José Urquidy. The 26-year old right-hander kept the Braves at bay with five innings of one-run ball, striking out seven and walking none in the process. Following Framber Valdez’s disastrous start in Game 1, it was imperative for Houston to have their next starter keep this series from unraveling. Urquidy did simply that.

So, how did Urquidy do it? Aren’t the Braves known for hitting their fair share of fly balls? And doesn’t Urquidy also give up plenty of fly balls? Yes to both counts. Atlanta, in fact, had the sixth-highest fly ball rate in baseball this season at 38.6 percent. Out of all starters with at least 100 innings pitched, Urquidy was twelfth at 45.6 percent. On paper, it appeared as a dangerous combination, especially once you account for Urquidy’s rough start in the ALCS against the Red Sox.

But it was a calculated risk considering the lack of a DH in Atlanta for Game 3 through 5, which rearranged the outfield configuration for Houston to possibly shift Kyle Tucker to center and Michael Brantley to keep Yordan Alvarez’s bat in play as the left fielder. Those fly ball tendencies from Urquidy make such an outfield arrangement a risky proposition at Truist Park.

Thankfully for the Astros, the fly ball barrage never occurred, thanks to a couple of different factors. For one, Urquidy’s changeup kept Atlanta’s left-handed hitters off balanced in those first five innings.

Of the 16 that he threw, Urquidy produced two called strikes and five whiffs. Only one of those 16 converted into a ball in play with an exit velocity of only 55.8 miles per hour. In addition to an effective four-seam fastball, it was enough to limit the opposing lineup, especially on a night when his slider wasn’t exactly at its best.

More importantly, Urquidy pounded the strike zone all outing long. It was a stark reversal from his first outing of the postseason against Boston.

10/18, Red Sox
10/27, Braves

Better control on Wednesday led to much better results. This performance was a much-needed shot in the arm for both Urquidy and the Astros. His lone ALCS appearance, when his location was all over the place, saw him cough up five runs. Houston probably couldn’t stomach a repeat performance of that one in this World Series. That said, I am quite curious to see if the precise location is still present if this shindig reaches a Game 6.