Houston gets the victory

Astros get back in the win column with 7-2 victory over Rangers

Jose Urquidy was impressive against the Rangers on Wednesday night. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

After a disappointing lopsided loss on Tuesday to even the series, the Astros tried to get back in position to take the series with a win on Wednesday. They would get it, thanks to a great start by Jose Urquidy and plenty of run support behind him.

Final Score: Astros 7, Rangers 2

Astros' Record: 85-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (7-3)

Losing Pitcher: Kohei Arihara (2-4)

Houston goes back-to-back in the second

After a scoreless first inning on both sides, Houston would strike first to start the scoring in the top of the second. A one-out single by Kyle Tucker set up the first two runs of the game, a two-run homer by Jake Meyers to make it 2-0. Marwin Gonzalez was next, and he made it back-to-back homers with a solo shot in the next at-bat, extending the lead to 3-0 with his second homer since re-joining the Astros.

Urquidy tosses an impressive quality start

The three-run inning put Houston's starter, Jose Urquidy, in a good position. After a walk to start the game, he settled in, retiring the next six batters he faced. The Rangers got on the board in the bottom of the third, getting a leadoff triple on a nearly scary play by Kyle Tucker that collided with the right-field wall tracking a long fly ball, which would ultimately fall in for the hit. Houston ceded a run on a groundball, making it 3-1 as Urquidy would get the next three batters in order to end the frame.

His offense backed him up with more runs in the next two innings, getting back-to-back hits to start the fourth, setting up a two-RBI single by Chas McCormick later in the inning, then in the fifth, Yordan Alvarez made it a five-run game with an RBI double. Urquidy remained efficient the rest of the way, allowing just one hit while retiring eleven of the final twelve batters he faced. His final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 81 P.

Astros get the win

Ryne Stanek took over in the bottom of the seventh, working around a leadoff single to keep the lead at 6-1. Kyle Tucker got his third hit of the night in the next inning, this one a solo homer to add another insurance run and make it 7-1.
Kendall Graveman pitched the eighth, a 1-2-3 inning, and then Josh James came in to finish things in the ninth. He allowed a run, but it would matter little as the Astros would get their 85th win of the season, giving them a chance to get the series win on Thursday.

Up Next: The final game of this four-game series and the last matchup between these two teams this season will be another 7:05 PM Central start on Thursday. Glenn Otto (0-1, 6.92 ERA) will make his fourth career start for the Rangers, going opposite Framber Valdez (10-5, 3.26 ERA) for the Astros.

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The Astros are utilizing a 6-man rotation. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros should schedule an Old-Timers Game, if not annually maybe every other year. Only the Yankees have regularly played Old Timers Games and it’s a highlight in the Bronx every season. The Astros have plenty enough history to welcome back an ample number of guys to make for a fabulous event. Maybe they could tie it into their now annual Hall of Fame Weekend. Anyway, don’t you feel that if Jose Altuve took part in an Old Timers Game in 2050 he’d bang out a couple of hits, and then if the Astros played him in the regular game he’d line one more hit somehow, at age 60?

After missing the first 43 games of the season while recovering from his broken thumb, Altuve went 0 for four in his first game back, but has since been generally fantastic with his OPS through nine games played at 1.013. It won’t stay that high, but Altuve is a direly needed upgrade to the Astros’ offense which has been utterly mediocre. Offense is the reason the Astros continue to look up at the Texas Rangers in the American League West. The Rangers’ offense has been fantastic, outscoring the Astros by a whopping 100 runs through the first third of the season.

As the regular season entered its middle third this week, the Astros are in the middle of playing a game in 17 consecutive days. It’s their longest stretch of the season without an off day. They are inserting Ronel Blanco as a sixth starting pitcher in the rotation for a couple of turns. The point of mixing in a sixth starter isn’t that the Astros are teeming with guys who belong in a big league rotation. The 29-year-old Blanco is not a notable prospect. This is about lightening the load a little on two guys: Cristian Javier and Hunter Brown.

In becoming a rotation mainstay last season, Javier blew past his previous biggest season workload by nearly 50 innings. He’s on pace to go another 25 innings beyond that this year without even accounting for the playoffs. Hunter Brown last year set his professional high with 130 innings pitched encompassing work with the Space Cowboys and Astros. Brown is on pace for about 170 innings this regular season. That’s a significant jump, and of course the Astros are hoping for another postseason of multiple rounds. Javier, Brown, and Framber Valdez are the three most critical pitchers on the staff, and the Astros hope they remain healthily so for several more years.

Lance McCullers’s latest recovery setback makes his plight increasingly sad. Well, except for him on payday. The odds now lopsidedly favor McCullers never again pitching a near fully healthy and effective season. His only one to date was 2021 (until he broke down in the playoffs), the year before his five year 85 million dollar contract kicked in. McCullers pulls down 17 mil this year (And again next year. And in 2025. And 2026), exactly two and a half times what Framber Valdez makes. I reckon Framber’s representation is aware of this, as it is of the five year 63 million dollar deal the Astros struck with Cristian Javier. Framber is more than three years older than Javier, but has been better, and can hit free agency after the 2025 season, the same time Javier could have gone to market.

Timing isn’t everything but it darn sure can matter. The Astros’ two best relief pitchers through May were Hector Neris and Phil Maton. Neris enters June with a 1.19 earned run average, Maton even better with a teeny-weeny 0.68 ERA. Maton has been especially amazing, given that last year while not pitching very well he posted his career best ERA at 3.84. His 2022 ended ignominiously when after giving up a hit to his brother Nick in the regular season finale, Phil took the ding-a-ling of the week award by breaking his pitching hand punching his locker, sidelining him for the postseason. The Hurt Locker won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2010. Now Maton is up for Best Pitcher (per inning worked). Both Neris and Maton were James Click acquisitions. Both become free agents after this season.

Up next

Four games with the Angels at Minute Maid Park through the weekend mean the amazing Shohei Ohtani is in town. It’s “Sho-time” on the mound Friday night in a doozy of a pitching matchup with Framber, with Ohtani batting in at least three of the four games. In one player the Angels have a pitcher as good as Cristian Javier and a hitter better than Kyle Tucker. And the Angels will probably miss the playoffs again anyway. And then lose Ohtani in free agency. After the Angels series the Astros are on the road next week. They start with four games at Toronto against the Blue Jays’ very potent lineup, then it’s three at Cleveland vs. the Guardians whose offense has been pathetic so far this season.

Walk this way

Geek Astro factoid of the week: Jeremy Pena drew two walks in Tuesday’s win over the Twins. In his rookie season, Pena had only one two walk game, also in May, also against the Twins. Tuesday’s bases on balls finally got Pena into double digits for the season. He has just 11 walks drawn (largely explaining his weak .307 on-base percentage) vs. 50 strikeouts.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it goes up at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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