Baseball's top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley made his Minute Maid debut

Astros star prospect Whitley knocked around early

Forrest Whitley. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Baseball's best pitching prospect will start the season in the minor leagues and just like his pro baseball journey to this point his Minute Maid debut was filled with ups and downs.

Forrest Whitley tossed three innings, allowing six hits and three runs while striking out two. He threw 67 pitches with 43 being thrown for strikes. He mixed in his slider and changeup with a fastball that sat at or above 95 mph most of the night. He occasionally went to his curveball as well.

"This outing was pretty weird," Whitley said after his start. "I haven't had one of these in a while, kind of had everything but my fastball. It's kinda hard to pitch without the fastball without the number one."

The Pirates got to the 21-year-old early. After the lead-off batter singled to right Sterling Marte took a 1-2 offering deep to right field for a double. Later in the inning with a runner on first Pirates catcher Francisco Cerveelli would blast a 2-0 fastball for a no-doubter home run to left field. Whitley would recover for a strikeout of Melky Cabrera producing three swings and misses and the strikeout with his slider in the dirt.

He settled down in the second inning producing a groundout, flyout, and strikeout swinging with his fastball on 15 pitches. The third saw him induce a pair of groundouts before an infield single. Jung Ho Kang would square up a ball for a hard hit single that would draw pitching coach Brent Strom from the dugout. Whitley would force a flyout to end the inning and his day.

How was the first of hopefully many starts in the Astros home ballpark?

"It was cool," said Whitley. "Very cool stadium, a lot bigger than I anticipated but it was a good time for sure."

Whitley said spending time with veteran pitchers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole was very important for him this spring. He said the preparation routine of each pitcher was different but both resulted in positive outcomes. Whitley said while he learned about their routines, he will be exploring his own process ahead of his return to the majors.

The 6-feet-7 inch tall righty played all of last season for the Astros Double-A affiliate where he appeared in just eight games for the Hooks due to is 50-game suspension to start the season. He produced a 3.76 ERA in his minor league work last year. He also pitched in the Arizona Fall League where his ERA was 4.15. He will begin the 2019 campaign playing for the Astros Triple-A affiliate the Round Rock Express.

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Houston stays hot at the plate

Astros overpower White Sox in series opener

Abraham Toro made a loud return to the Astros' lineup on Thursday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a two-game sweep of the struggling Rangers behind them, the Astros welcomed in a much fiercer opponent in the Chicago White Sox, owners of the best record in the AL, for an exciting four-game set. It was all Astros in this one, as their offense would once again propel them to a lopsided win.

Final Score: Astros 10, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 40-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (5-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dylan Cease (5-3)

Houston builds a big lead

Houston wasted no time in the bottom of the first, getting two on base on a single and an error to set up a three-run home run for Michael Brantley, putting them ahead 3-0 before Chicago and Dylan Cease could record an out. They extended the lead in the bottom of the fourth, putting two on base on a walk and hit batter before an RBI ground-rule double by Carlos Correa brought in one. That left runners on second and third, and Abraham Toro took advantage by scoring both on a two-RBI single, then with one out, Jose Altuve hit a sac fly to make it a 7-0 lead.

Urquidy brings the good stuff

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was cruising through Chicago's lineup. He allowed just one hit through the first five scoreless innings but would let the White sox get on the board in the top of the sixth after a leadoff double and two-out RBI single. They added one more on another single, making it 7-2 before Urquidy could get out of the inning.

Jose Altuve got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning, hitting his fourth home run in three games to make it a six-run game at 8-2. Urquidy returned to the mound in the top of the seventh, getting a quick 1-2-3 frame to end his successful night. His final line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 93 P.

Astros take the opener

In the bottom of the seventh, Houston pushed the lead to eight runs with a leadoff single, setting up a two-out two-run homer by Toro, bringing him to four RBI on the night. With Urquidy's night over, Brandon Bielak came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen, sitting down Chicago in order. Ralph Garza Jr. came in to get an inning of work to finish off the game with Houston's large lead. He made it a quick one, with Chicago going down in order one more time as the Astros took the opener and notched their fourth-straight win.

Up Next: Game two of this entertaining series will be another 7:10 PM Central Start on Friday. Carlos Rodon (6-2, 1.89 ERA) will try to help Chicago even the series, while Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.98 ERA) will try to put Houston up 2-0.

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