With the Astros attempting to piecemeal their way through a short-handed rotation, one that continues to tax their deep but overworked bullpen, Houston manager A.J. Hinch will continue to savor those moments when the high-wire act yields favorable results.
Hinch used "openers" to start two of the four games the Astros played against the Los Angeles Angels earlier this week, and until the Astros either trade for starting pitching or get right-hander Brad Peacock off the 10-day injured list, the strain will continue to rest on the Houston relievers.
When right-hander Justin Verlander took his turn in the rotation Friday, he served as the only regular starter scheduled to do so against the Rangers. So after Verlander and a three-man bullpen held Texas to 0-for-11 hitting with runners in scoring position in a 4-3 win in the opener of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park, the result felt like a resounding positive.
"I've had to answer a lot of questions the last couple weeks about opportunities missed," Hinch said. "When you're on the other side of it and you eliminate the opportunities, it feels pretty good."
Right-hander Jose Urquidy (0-0, 10.50 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to start for the Astros Saturday. He delivered two spot starts earlier this month, allowing two runs on six hits and one walk with four strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings at Colorado on July 2 before surrendering five runs on eight hits while recording seven outs against the Los Angeles Angels five days later at Minute Maid Park. Houston won both games in slugfests, defeating the Rockies 9-8 and topping the Angels 11-10. Urquidy is 5-4 with a 4.08 ERA over 16 appearances (14 starts) across two levels in the minors this season.
Right-hander Ariel Jurado (5-5, 4.63 ERA) will start for the Rangers. He has dropped both of his starts this month, allowing 11 earned runs over 10 innings. Jurado will be working on extended rest after suffering a 12-4 loss to the Astros on July 14. He is 1-1 with a 3.95 ERA over four career appearances (two starts) against the Astros, including his first career victory on July 28, 2018, when he allowed one run on two hits over six innings in a 7-3 win at Minute Maid Park.
If All-Star left-hander Mike Minor made his final appearance in a Texas uniform Friday, he did so showcasing the form that makes him attractive to postseason hopefuls. After surrendering four solo home runs three batters into the third inning, he locked in and retired 15 of the final 16 batters he faced. Minor finished with 10 strikeouts, including fanning the side in his final inning of work, the seventh. He allowed one walk and flashed the dominance that earned him his first All-Star nod in his eighth season.
As Minor plied his trade, there were reports that the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies were interested in his services. For Minor, whose 6.0 bWAR led all American League pitchers entering play Friday, what comes next won't alter his preparation for his next start.
"If it happens, it happens," Minor said. "It's there, but it's more about staying in my routine and keeping on pitching. I see it, you guys (the media) talk about it, but I've got to do my best to keep it in the clubhouse. I'm trying to do a job."
--Field Level Media
Astros call up pitching help to face Rangers