,By HAL McCOY
When conversation surfaces about the multi-talented Houston Astros pitching staff, the names Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Zach Greinke, Wade Miley, Joe Smith and Roberto Osuna are discussed.
But, Jose Urquidy? Who is Jose Urquidy?
The Washington Nationals became acutely aware of Urquidy Saturday night in Nationals Park in Game 4 of the World Series, a game they lost, 8-1.
Urquidy gagged and bound the Nataionals for five spotless innings, enabling Houston to square the Series at two games apiece. He stifled the Nats for no runs, two hits, no walks and four strikeouts.
And he accomplished it with 67 pitches, 45 for strikes.
He retired the last nine Nationals he faced and turned it over to the bullpen.
So who is Urquidy? On Opening Day this year, he was the starting pitcher in Whataburger Park for the Class AA Corpus Christi Hooks of the Texas League.
The Astros wanted to sign him when he was 16, but his mother insisted he finish high school first. He signed with Houston for $400,000 when he was 19.
By July, the 24-year-old rookie from Mazatlan, Mexico was pitching in the Astros bullpen. And on Saturday night, he was pitching in the World Series, pitching better than Gerrit Cole or Justin Verlander.
He was supposed to be ‘The Opener’ for a bullpen game, but he was the Energizer Bunny — he just kept going and going and going.
The Astros assaulted Washington starter Patrick Corbin early and often with two runs in the first and two in the fourth.
Corbin struck out George Springer to start the game, then gave up four straight singles to Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel. The hits by Bregman and Gurriel each scored a run.
Corbin walked Carlos Correa on a full count to open the fourth and catcher Robinson Chirinos hit his second home run in two nights to give Houston a 4-0 lead.
Josh James replaced Urquidy in the sixth and he walked two of the first three he faced. That forced Houston manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Will Harris.
Anthony Rendon singled off Harris’ body, filling the bases with one out. Juan Soto grounded to first, scoring a run. But Howie Kendrick struck out with two on to leave it at 4-1.
Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Tanner Rainey arrived to pitch the seventh, but his departure was nearly as quick as his arrival.
He walked the first two he faced. After he retired Jose Altuve, he was replaced by Fernando Rodney. Rodney? Why not their best, Daniel Hudson?
Rodney gave up a single to Michael Brantley, filling the bases, and Alex Bregman quickly unfilled them with a grand slam home run and an 8-1 lead. Brantley’s single was his third hit and he is 8 for 16 in this World Series.
After Bregman’s home run, Rodney walked three more to load the bases with two outs, giving the Nationals bullpen five walks in the inning.
Wander Suero replaced Rodney to face Kyle Tucker and finally ended the carnage with a strikeout. But, as they say, the major damage had been done.
After winning the first two games on the road, the second game by 12-3, the Nationals suddenly can’t hit at home.
In Game 3, a 4-1 loss, they were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners. In Game 4 they were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and they stranded nine.
The Nationals wear hoodies with the slogan, ‘Finish the Fight,’ printed on the front. With Houston’s Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander staring them down for the next two games, it will be an uphill fight.