October spotlight shines on Jose Urquidy and Robinson Chirinos, Astros’ new World Series heroes

first_imgThe roster is full of stars and players known around the baseball-loving country. But the two players who have made arguably the biggest impacts on Houston’s two wins in Washington weren’t exactly household names heading into October. And that, folks, is part of what makes October so very great. The spotlight is an equal-opportunity star-maker.FOSTER: This World Series shows that nothing means anything in baseballJose Urquidy didn’t act much like a World Series hero after Game 4. While his teammates held court in the Astros clubhouse, the right-hander who threw five shutout innings in Game 4 sat alone at his locker, wearing the team’s “Take It Back” hoodie, his Astros cap on his head and Adidas trainers with three team-color orange stripes. As the star of the game was waiting for his turn in the interview room, he was scrolling through his phone, which had been bombarded with words of congratulations. “Yes, a lot of family was texting me and calling me about this game,” he told reporters. “There were messages in my phone now. But I know all my people are watching me now.”He scrolled so much that he even switched hands at one point, all while his catcher, Robinson Chirinos — himself an unexpected hero for the Astros in the two games in D.C. — heaped lavish praise on the pitcher from Mexico.“What can I say? You guys watched the game,” Chirinos said. “Those five innings, they were outstanding. Everything for him was working tonight. His fastball, his changeup were unbelievable. His slider got so much better the last four weeks.”In his five innings, he allowed only two hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out four.“He was picking apart the zone,” Nationals catcher Yan Gomes said. “He was elevating the ball pretty good, mixing speeds. Just overall, pitched a good game, exactly what they wanted.” Urquidy had never pitched above High-A ball heading into 2019. He had a 4.09 ERA in Double-A and a 4.63 ERA in Triple-A. He made his big league debut in July but lasted only a month before he was sent down to the minors. He came back in September, posted a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings, and now just threw five shutout frames in Game 4.“What a day! Being the third Mexican to pitch in the World Series, being the second, I think, to win a game,” Chirinos said. “I know his family, his whole country of Mexico is proud of what he accomplished tonight.”MORE: Five defining moments from Astros’ Game 4 winThis World Series has an incredibly impressive collection of starting pitchers. Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke have five Cy Young awards and 12 other top-five finishes among them. Gerrit Cole, as mentioned, might win this year’s award. Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin finished outstanding campaigns for the Nationals.And yet, it’s Urquidy who authored the best start of the World Series. In his five shutout innings, he allowed only two hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out four. “From the very beginning I thought he was calm, I thought he was in control of his stuff,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “His fastball had a little extra life to it. It’s had good life this postseason. And then he just came up with big pitch after big pitch.”When he was pulled after the fifth inning, the Astros had a 4-0 lead, thanks in part to the second home run in as many days by Chirinos, the 35-year-old catcher who signed with the club as a free agent last offseason. His Game 3 home run hit the foul pole down the left-field line, and his Game 4 home run — a two-run shot — went deep into the left-field bleachers to put Houston up 4-0 in the fourth inning. “I’m working so hard in the cage to be consistent, to make sure I put a good swing to the ball,” Chirinos said. “Last night, I told everybody here, I put myself in a good position. I was swinging at strikes, I was staying to the middle of the field and I did again tonight.“My first at-bat, I chased some changeups down, and I rolled over for a double play. My second at-bat, I was more calm. I took a slider down and in, a good pitch. The second one, the changeup was out. He was trying to go down and in and it went middle-middle and I was able to hit it out of the ballpark. I’m proud to help my team win.”MORE: Three takeaways from Game 4And a big part of helping the team win was working with Urquidy. “Obviously Chirinos has been incredibly important to me and he’s helped me out so much behind the plate,” Urquidy said. “He’s someone that I trust 100 percent with every pitch and he’s been an incredible help to me and to all the pitchers.” WASHINGTON — The star power in the Astros’ clubhouse is impressive. The 2019 AL Cy Young award will certainly wind up in Houston, either with Gerrit Cole or Justin Verlander. Jose Altuve is building a case as the best player in baseball history who stands 5-6 or shorter. Alex Bregman just might win the AL MVP award. George Springer shares the record for most consecutive World Series games with a home run. Carlos Correa was the No. 1 overall draft pick and an AL Rookie of the Year.  We talk a lot about “out of nowhere” performances by lesser-known players in October, and the truth is, that’s just on a national scale. For the players and coaches and front-office types — and the home-team fan bases — those players aren’t unknown at all.But it’s still nice to see a brighter spotlight give then more attention.“It’s awesome,” Jake Marisnick told SN. “You have so many guys behind the scenes who grind it out and those two guys were great for us, a big part of the reason we won today.”last_img

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