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Astros To Start Jose Urquidy In Game Three; Zack Greinke Battling Arm Soreness

The Astros have a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-five ALDS matchup with the Athletics, though not without some uncertainty in their pitching rotation.  Manager Dusty Baker told Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter links) and other reporters that righty Jose Urquidy will start tomorrow’s Game 3, as Zack Greinke is “ailing some” due to arm soreness.  No specifics were given about Greinke’s condition, though Baker said Greinke has been examined by doctors.

Greinke last pitched during Game 1 of the Astros’ wild card series with the Twins, tossing 79 pitches over four innings and allowing one earned run on two hits and three walks.  While nothing to write home about, Greinke’s outing nonetheless represented his best work in over a month, as he posted a 5.73 ERA over his final seven starts and 37 2/3 innings of the regular season.  This isn’t to say that Greinke’s current arm problem contributed to these struggles, however, as Rome noted that Greinke was on the roster for both the wild card round and the ALDS, and the right-hander was even throwing during Sunday’s team workout.

Pitching injuries have been a major story of Houston’s season, and the idea of the Astros being on the doorstep of the ALCS without either a healthy Greinke or without Justin Verlander (who made only one start before suffering the forearm injury that eventually led to Tommy John surgery) would have seemed inconceivable.  The Astros posted only a 29-31 record during the season, yet solid work from starters like Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Lance McCullers Jr., and Urquidy helped carry Houston into the postseason despite an inconsistent offense.

This work has continued into October.  The Astros allowed just two runs during their two-game sweep of the Twins, and while McCullers didn’t pitch well in Game 1 against Oakland, the bats came alive in a 10-5 Houston victory.  Today, Valdez was outstanding in seven innings of two-run ball, leading the Astros to a 5-2 win in Game 2.

While Urquidy obviously have Greinke’s track record, the second-year pitcher has already delivered in the playoffs.  Urquidy started Game 2 against the Twins and allowed one run in 4 1/3 innings of work, and he most memorably threw five shutout innings starting Game 4 of last year’s World Series against the Nationals.

Still, it isn’t good news for the Astros that Greinke’s status for both this series and potentially the best of the postseason could be in question.  The lack of off-days in these playoffs will test Houston’s pitching depth, but the Astros can earn themselves some extra time off if they can eliminate the A’s either tomorrow or in Thursday’s Game 4.

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