Houston Astros

Astros even up World Series thanks to a Grand Slam and a rookie

Jose Urquidy gave the Astros more than they could’ve hoped for on the mound, while Alex Bregman’s grand slam provided all the offense they needed against the Nationals in Game 4

Jose Urquidy’s 2019 season began on April 4 in a stadium named Whataburger Field, against a team known as the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

It’s a long way from playing for Corpus Christi against the Sod Poodles to taking the mound in Nationals Park for a World Series game. But Urquidy, the Mexican native who didn’t sign his first professional contract until he was nearly 20, made it look easy on Saturday.

Urquidy shut down the Washington Nationals for five innings in Game 4, giving up only two hits and striking out four without a walk in his first career postseason start. His night came to an end after retiring the last nine batters he faced.

The Houston Astros boast a starting rotation of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke. Combined those three have 524 career victories and two Cy Young Awards, with another sure to come to either Cole or Verlander when this season is over. Urquidy’s credentials include 11 career big league games before tonight and the five no-hit innings against the Sod Poodles.

The Nationals beat Cole and Verlander in the first two games of the Fall Classic, then threatened Greinke over 4.2 innings in Game 3, the Astros’ first victory of the series. So, naturally, it was Urquidy who had the best start of any of them. He’s only the second rookie in World Series history with five-plus innings pitched, two or fewer hits allowed and no earned runs, joining Walker Buehler from last year. He’s the fourth rookie in the Divisional Era to pitch a scoreless outing in the World Series, after Buehler, Yordano Ventura, and Madison Bumgarner.

The Astros’ other key contributor in Game 4, an 8-1 win that evened the World Series at two games apiece, couldn’t be more different from Urquidy. While Urquidy is still a rookie, third baseman Alex Bregman might be the MVP of the American League this year. He had just one hit through the first three games of the series before an RBI single in the first inning off Nationals starter Patrick Corbin.

In the seventh, Bregman came to bat against Fernando Rodney with the bases loaded, and on the second pitch Rodney threw Bregman connected with a 392-foot grand slam into the left-field seats.

That gave the Astros a seven-run lead and all but assured that the World Series will return to Houston. Bregman finished the game 3-4 with five RBI, the most by a third baseman in World Series history.

Both teams have now won two straight games in the opposing ballpark to begin the series. The Nationals had only lost back-to-back home games once since the beginning of August. They haven’t lost three straight since July 25-27.

But that’s exactly what they’re up against now after letting a two-game series lead slip away. The Astros have Gerrit Cole ready to pitch in Game 5 and avenge his first defeat since May 22 back in Game 1. Houston is 19-2 in Cole’s last 22 starts dating back to July. The Nationals have to find a way to beat him for the second time if they want to avoid going down 3-2 when the series shifts back to Houston.

The Astros arrived in the nation’s capital two days ago down and nearly out of the World Series. The last two games have brought them right back in it, and for that they can thank their rookie right-hander.

Next: Too early for Nationals to panic as Astros lead?

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