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The Houston Astros stand one win away from the AL Championship Series for the fourth-straight season and are putting their faith in José Urquidy to sweep the Oakland A’s in the AL Divisional Series on Wednesday.

LHP Jesús Luzardo has earned his second post season start and the rookie will take the mound and try to put the team on his back and get them through at least one more game against their division rivals in Game 3 of the ALDS.

The Astros could have potentially locked in a win with a healthy Zach Greinke start but after pitching four innings in the first game of the Wild Card series against the Minnesota Twins where he gave up a run off two hits in just four innings, his arm is too sore to start Game 3. The ace pitcher hasn’t been the same over his previous four starts and hasn’t lasted six full innings in about a month, Sept. 8.

With Greinke unable to pitch, reigning Cy Young winner Justin Verlander out for the season with Tommy John surgery, and Gerrit Cole no longer on the roster, the Astros choices were slim. The Astros right-handed pitchers are Luis Garcia, Greinke, Josh James, Cristian Javier, Enoli Paredes, Lance McCullers Jr., Ryan Pressly, Andre Scrubb, Cy Sneed, and Urquidy.

When it comes to lefties they have Brooks Raley, Blake Taylor and Framber Valdez. The Astros have used five pitchers in the bullpen in the first four games. Javier has pitched four innings, Paredes and Pressly have both thrown three. Taylor has thrown one inning and Raley 2/3 of an inning.

The A’s have seen Taylor, Paredes, Javier, and Pressly in the first two ALDS games. The Astros have yet to use Garcia, James, Scrubb and Sneed in any of their four post season games. Urquidy pitched in the first Astros postseason game of 2020 and has World Series experience. He pitched in each round of the 2019 post season after he made his MLB debut in July of last season.

The 25-year-old said he has no nerves and no pressure going into the game on Wednesday, even though the last time he faced the 2020 American League Division Champions he lost in a 3-1 A’s win in Oakland where he lasted six innings and gave up two of the A’s three runs on a Matt Olson two-run homer due to a Ramon Laureano walk in the prior at-bat.

Not only was Vimael Machin the A’s designated hitter in a game Jonah Heim caught, but he wasn’t throwing in Dodger Stadium that is already a hitter friendly ballpark but he will be pitching in 90-degree weather on a field that is already playing small and will have to deal with the A’s hot batters Sean Murphy and Khris Davis in the lineup this time around.

The A’s are known to walk and hit homers and in Dodger Stadium, they may do some damage against the confident Astros who are undefeated in the 2020 postseason. Jose Altuve is the only change that was made to the Astros lineup since the last Urquidy start in Oakland. Altuve was 0-for-3 with a walk in Gme 2 game but had back-to-back singles in the 10-5 Game 1 win and his second hit brought in two runs.

The Astros lineup is healthy and scary. Big names win big games. The best of the west is earned from how you do during an entire season or how you do when it counts? The Astros may not have won the AL West Division title but they could win a more important one, the ALDS.

Luzardo didn’t perform the way he did in regular season for the first game of the Wild Card series for Oakland but may feel more comfortable facing a team he is has seen during his short time in the Bigs. He took a loss and earned a 8.10 ERA in postseason but the confident rookie has pitched well against the Astros in the past.


Simone McCarthy is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @SimoneMcCarthy0 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.

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