Right-hander Jose Urquidy will move to the bullpen on Monday, the first significant move for the Houston Astros as they attempt to sort rotation options in advance of the postseason.
The Astros (103-55) have three solid starting pitchers in right-handers Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr. and left-hander Framber Valdez, who set a major-league record with 25 consecutive quality starts this season.
Right-hander Cristian Javier posted his fourth consecutive scoreless start on Saturday in the Astros’ 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays and extended his scoreless streak to 25 1/3 innings, the longest active streak in the majors.
That would appear to leave Urquidy (13-8, 3.88 ERA) on the outside looking in. He has yet to pitch out of the bullpen this season, and 60 of his 62 career appearances have been as a starter. He has suffered three consecutive losses, posting a 7.16 ERA during that stretch.
“We’re trying to make a determination on who we’re going to keep,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Are we going to keep 13 pitchers or 12? Are we going to need an extra guy next round? We’ve got some major decisions (upcoming).”
Right-hander Luis Garcia (14-8, 3.81) has the starting assignment for the Astros on Sunday. He has won his last six decisions and is 6-0 with a 3.46 ERA over his last seven starts, recording 36 strikeouts in 39 innings.
Garcia, who lost three consecutive starts before his current win streak, allowed one run on four hits with six strikeouts over six innings in a 10-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday.
Garcia is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA over two career starts against the Rays. He threw five scoreless innings in Tampa Bay on Sept. 19, allowing two hits and four walks with four strikeouts in a 4-0 win.
Right-hander Corey Kluber (10-9, 4.36) is scheduled to start the series finale for the Rays.
He did not factor into the decision of his previous start after allowing three runs on eight hits with five strikeouts over four innings against the Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday, marking just the second time in 15 starts Kluber logged less than five innings. He has issued only 20 walks in 159 innings this season.
Kluber is 6-3 with a 2.86 ERA over 12 career appearances (11 starts) against the Astros, including a 3-2 record and 3.55 ERA in six appearances in Houston. On Sept. 21, he allowed one run on six hits and one walk with two strikeouts over seven innings in a no-decision against the Astros.
The playoff-bound Rays (86-72) dropped three games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the No. 4 seed in the American League, the only wild-card slot that would yield hosting duties in the best-of-three first round. The Rays finished 51-30 at Tropicana Field, one of only seven teams with 50-plus home wins, a mark that indicates the potential significance of home-field advantage.
“I think our record tells us it does (matter),” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’ve played really good at home; feels like we’ve played really good at home for many years now. I don’t think it’s the most inviting ballpark for opposing teams to come in. If that’s the case, why wouldn’t you want to use that to your advantage?”