PHOENIX (AP) — Jose Urquidy had already delivered five brilliant innings in an emergency start when Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker ambled to the mound in the sixth, ready to take the right-hander out of the game after Arizona’s Ketel Marte reached on a leadoff single.
Urquidy pleaded his case to stay in.
“I’ve got this inning,” Urquidy told him. “I’ll throw this ball for a double play.”
Baker left the mound convinced, Urquidy followed by coaxing a double-play grounder as part of six scoreless innings and the Astros held off the Diamondbacks late for a critical 2-1 win Friday night.
Jose Abreu hit a two-run double in the sixth and Gold Glove shortstop Jeremy Pena made a diving play that kept the Astros ahead in the eighth, helping the defending World Series champions strengthen their position in the American League playoff race. Houston holds the final wild card by a game over Seattle and moved within one game of Texas atop the AL West with two to play.
“Boy, that was some game,” Baker said. “And some play by Pena.”
The Diamondbacks trailed 2-0 going into the ninth before Alek Thomas reached with one out on an error by second baseman Jose Altuve. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. struck out but Gabriel Moreno followed with an RBI double off the left-center fence that was just shy of a homer.
Ryan Pressly then coaxed a weak groundout from Jace Peterson for his 31st save.
The loss denied Arizona a chance to clinch a postseason berth, but the D-backs are still in good position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017. They’re in the second National League wild-card spot, a half-game ahead of the Marlins and two games in front of the Reds and Cubs.
The Astros had to start Urquidy (3-3) after J.P. France was scratched due to a family emergency. Urquidy had been used out of the bullpen over the past month and had a 5.84 ERA coming into Friday, but was fantastic in his first start since Aug. 23. He said he got a message from coaches just before noon, asking if he was ready to take the mound.
The 28-year-old gave up just two hits and three walks while striking out two.
The D-backs had a great chance to score in the eighth when they put runners on second and third with two outs. Tommy Pham hit a sharp grounder up the middle but Pena made a sprawling stop, ranging to his left to spear the ball. Abreu made a nice pick at first base of Pena’s spinning, one-hop throw.
It’s been a disappointing year for Abreu, who came into the game hitting just .234 with 17 homers in his first season with Houston. But he came up big on Friday, smashing a two-out double to deep center in the sixth that was initially ruled a three-run homer.
Replays showed the ball hit the yellow line high on the center-field wall, and the call was changed to a double.
It was the only blemish for Arizona right-hander Zac Gallen, who gave up seven hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven. Gallen (17-9) is a contender for the NL Cy Young Award.
“Zac was fantastic,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “He pitched into the seventh inning. He really gave us a chance to stand in the middle of the ring and duke it out. Unfortunately, their pitcher was doing the same.”
Said Gallen: “Obviously we are disappointed, but we still have two games to play. It is in our hands.”
SCHULTE’S LAST WEEKEND
The Diamondbacks are celebrating the final homestand for veteran radio broadcaster Greg Schulte, who has called nearly 4,000 regular-season and postseason games over the past 26 years.
Schulte threw out the ceremonial first pitch and gave a pregame speech to the crowd. The D-backs also played a montage on the video board celebrating some of his most famous calls — including the 2001 World Series winner. The team also renamed the radio booth the “Greg Schulte Radio Booth.”
Schulte has been with the franchise since its inception in 1998.
Baker said he wasn’t sure if France would return to the team this weekend. … RHP Ryne Stanek was placed on paternity leave. The Astros called up RHP Seth Martinez from Triple-A Sugar Land to take his spot on the roster.
The teams meet again Saturday night. The Astros will throw RHP Justin Verlander (12-8, 3.32 ERA) while the D-backs counter with RHP Merrill Kelly (12-7, 3.38).