How Urquidy's brilliance, Astros' breakout bats tied up this series

WASHINGTON — On Aug. 7, pitching for Triple-A Round Rock, Jose Urquidy allowed 14 hits, 11 runs and three home runs in 4⅔ innings in a game at El Paso, Texas. So it makes perfect sense that the rookie right-hander saved the Houston Astros from the brink of elimination in Game 4 of the World Series, tossing five scoreless innings in an 8-1 victory Saturday over the Washington Nationals that evened up the Fall Classic at two wins apiece and sets the stage for a colossal Game 5 rematch between Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer.

It makes perfect sense because this is baseball. This is unpredictable October baseball. This is October baseball at its surprising best.

Urquidy allowed only two hits and no walks in his five innings and became just the fourth rookie in the past 30 years to throw a scoreless start in the World Series. He joined Fernando Valenzuela as the only pitchers from Mexico to start and win a World Series game. He became just the second pitcher since 1969 to have his first postseason start be a scoreless outing in the World Series, matching Jon Lester of the Red Sox in 2007. Not bad for a guy who had just 41 career innings in the regular season — the third-fewest ever for a World Series starter (behind Steven Matz of the 2015 Mets and Marty Bystrom of the 1980 Phillies).

And no doubt it was the best World Series outing ever for a guy who gave up 11 runs at El Paso a couple of months earlier.

After his win, Urquidy said he never let the moment get to him – although he was clearly aware of the magnitude of the game. “Yes, a couple moments, a couple moments I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, I’m in the World Series pitching.’ It was awesome,” he said.

Urquidy had made his major league debut in July at Coors Field. Four starts later, he was sent back down to Triple-A.

“When we sent him back down, it was really just sort of a gap in time where we needed to work on a few things,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said before the game. “The strike-throwing, we needed him to continue to evolve with that. He got beat up a little bit, and had one blowup game in Triple-A that was unlike him. He had a lot of homers and a lot of hits. And maybe took our advice to be in the strike zone a little bit too much.”

When Urquidy came back in September, he allowed three runs in 18 innings. He pitched well in two relief outings in the earlier postseason series, including in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. “I think he’s learned a lot being around our pitching staff, our pitching program,” Hinch said. “It’s like one of those things, he pitches up to the level when he comes to the big leagues and he can be creative and he can throw different pitches.”

He certainly pitched at his highest level in this game. Urquidy attacks hitters with a mid-90s fastball up in the zone. On 3-2 counts, he blew a 96 mph fastball past Juan Soto in the fourth inning and a 95 mph heater past Ryan Zimmerman in the fifth. He throws a slider. Urquidy’s changeup is a thing of beauty, however, a pitch that allowed him to post a big reverse platoon split in the regular season, holding left-handed batters to a meager .179/.210/.321 batting line. He threw 10 changeups to the Nationals, and they went 0-for-4 against it.

The interesting thing is that Adam Eaton said Urquidy flipped the script with his pitch percentages — and didn’t throw his changeup as often as the Nats expected.



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