Thu Sep 16 7:31am ET
After solid effort from starter, Astros face Rangers again
The Houston Astros have a comfortable seven-game lead in the American League West entering their road game Thursday night against the Texas Rangers, and Astros manager Dusty Baker should be buoyed by the performance of right-hander Jose Urquidy with the playoffs approaching.
With Urquidy producing his longest start since June 23 on Wednesday, the Astros cruised to a 7-2 victory that took some pressure off their overworked bullpen.
Urquidy allowed one run on two hits and one walk with six strikeouts over six innings and resembled the pitcher who routinely provided the Astros depth before he spent two months on the injured list with shoulder soreness.
Aside from right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., Astros starters have struggled to consistently work deep into games. That fact combined with the attempted strategy to manage innings largely out of necessity has put Baker in a precarious position in recent days.
"His command, and he maintained his velocity throughout the whole game," Baker said when asked what impressed him most about Urquidy's performance Wednesday. "It showed that his arm strength is coming back. He had a very good changeup, and his slider was good. Overall a very good performance, but I was most impressed that he was able to maintain his velocity.
"I was impressed with the fact he went six innings. This is what we needed to get our bullpen straight."
Left-hander Framber Valdez (10-5, 3.26 ERA) will start the series finale for the Astros (85-60) on Thursday. He earned the win Friday in his most recent start despite laboring for five innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits and five walks with six strikeouts in a 10-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
Valdez is 3-2 with a 3.62 ERA over eight career games (five starts) against Texas, including a 2-0 record and 1.38 ERA in two starts this season.
Rookie right-hander Glenn Otto (0-1, 6.92) will be the scheduled starter for Texas (54-91) in the season series finale on Thursday. Otto suffered his loss in his previous start after allowing eight runs on eight hits and one walk with five strikeouts over 3 1/3 innings in the Rangers' 10-5 setback at Oakland last Friday.
He had allowed two runs on six hits and one walk with 11 strikeouts over his first two career starts, including five shutout innings against the Astros in his debut on Aug. 27. A Houston native, Otto allowed two hits with no walks and seven strikeouts against his hometown team.
One bright spot for the Rangers on Wednesday was the return of Willie Calhoun, who was activated from the 60-day injured list and finished 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Calhoun had not appeared in a game for the Rangers since June 26, when he suffered a left-forearm fracture when he was hit by a pitch.
"That was the silver lining of the day," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. "I know we got beat, but it's nice to see Willie get a couple hits there, especially the way that last ball came off his bat to left-center. It's a good thing moving forward."
--Field Level Media
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