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José Urquidy Thrives On Short Notice, Astros Best Diamondbacks 2-1

MLB: Houston Astros at Arizona Diamondbacks Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Forgive me if my confidence in José Urquidy was shaken before Friday’s game against the Diamondbacks. I mean, a 5.84 ERA/5.52 FIP in 57 innings isn’t exactly inspiring for any pitcher. With J.P. France suddenly unavailable due to a family emergency, Urquidy was the choice to fill in. Sure, Hunter Brown was also available on regular rest, but his lackluster second half has made his remaining in the rotation in a tight postseason race a rather untenable situation. Even if the series opener in Arizona was a bullpen game for the Astros, it was ultimately the correct choice in a less-than-desirable set of circumstances.

Lo and behold, we saw Urquidy pitch arguably his best game of the 2023 season, limiting the Diamondbacks to five baserunners with no runs allowed. Sure, the right-hander allowed more walks (3) than strikeouts (2) with only two swing-and-misses. But blowing hitters away with loads of strikeouts has never been Urquidy’s primary goal. He is at his best when limiting mistakes and keeping the ball in the ballpark, which he exactly did. Ultimately, he pitched well enough across 70 pitches — six innings — to help Houston steal a win against Zac Gallen, one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Frankly, it was a bit of a surprise to see Urquidy face the top of the order in Arizona’s lineup a third time. Based on Dusty Baker’s postgame comments, he intended to pull Urquidy following Ketel Marte’s leadoff single in the bottom of the sixth inning. However, when assessing the situation when meeting with Urquidy, he chose to leave the right-hander in the game in a crucial spot. It ultimately worked out, with Urquidy inducing a groundball double play from Tommy Pham followed by Christian Walker’s groundout to conclude the bottom half of the frame.

With Urquidy and the bullpen doing all they could, it was on the lineup to at least provide a bit of wiggle room. José Abreu did just that with his three-run home run two-run double in the top half of the sixth. With Gallen on the mound, you’d figure that runs would be hard to come by and it was in this game. Thankfully, those two runs were enough to help secure the win against a team in Arizona also playing for its postseason aspirations.

However, that RBI double arguably wasn’t the best play of the game. No, it came in the bottom half of the eighth, with Arizona threatening with runners in scoring position. A base hit likely scores two and ties the game. Instead, Jeremy Peña perhaps made the defensive play of the Astros’ season, with a spectacular dive along with a terrific scoop by Abreu at first base to end the threat.

Honestly, what a win. With the Mariners besting the Rangers once again, the race for the postseason remains tight, with the AL West potentially up for grabs one last time. The Astros now trail Texas by only one game for the division lead with the Mariners still trailing the former by just a single game. Houston must win at least one of their next two games, especially if the Mariners ultimately sweep the Rangers due to the former holding the tiebreaker. There are a variety of scenarios still in play, including winning the division, clinching a wildcard, or missing out on the postseason altogether. But Friday’s win was at least a nice start to the weekend in the club’s goal towards qualifying for October baseball for the eighth time in nine seasons.