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Former Astros pitcher shuts down ’Topes

Albuquerque’s Pat Valaika waits on the throw as Round Rock’s Abraham Toro heads to second base.

The rich getting richer did nothing to benefit the Albuquerque Isotopes.

Round Rock starting pitcher Jose Urquidy, who two weeks ago was pitching well for the Houston Astros, effectively carved up the home team Tuesday night at Isotopes Park. Urquidy allowed one run and struck out nine in six innings to help the Express take a 4-2 win and earn a split of the four-game series.

Urquidy had earned a rotation spot for the American League West-leading Astros before a blockbuster trade sent Zack Greinke to Houston. Urquidy was promptly optioned to Triple-A but he showed big-league-quality stuff to the ‘Topes.

“Good fastball and he commanded four pitches,” Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill said. “He has a change-up, slider and an occasional curve to offset his fastball and he changes speeds with that. I thought we had some pretty good at-bats after the first time through the order but give him credit. He was tough.”

Drew Butera’s solo home run was all the damage Albuquerque could muster against Urquidy, and the Isotopes could not cash in on a pair of late scoring chances against Round Rock’s bullpen. The ‘Topes were trying to win back-to-back home series for the first time since May 2017 but settled for a 4-3 homestand against San Antonio and Round Rock — two of the top teams in the Pacific Coast League.

Four stellar defensive plays by the Express, including a diving stop behind second base that robbed Butera of a ninth-inning hit, helped hold the Isotopes’ offense at bay.

“We played some good teams on this home stand and held our own,” Hill said. “It took some great plays to beat us tonight. Unfortunately, they made some.”

SAVE THOSE BASEBALLS: Two players who have spent most of the season with the Isotopes had a Tuesday night to remember in Denver.

Catcher Dom Nuñez was called up by the Rockies earlier in the day and made his major league debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Nuñez, 24, ended his Isotopes stint with a bang, hitting a walk-off home run Sunday against Round Rock, and he bashed a solo homer Tuesday for his first major league hit.

On a more surprising note, another recent Isotope also collected his first big-league hit Tuesday. Rockies relief pitcher Jesus Tinoco singled in the fourth inning and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Nolan Arenado.

It was the first hit and first run scored this season for Tinoco, who was called up last week. He did not have many previous opportunities. Tinoco batted just once in 16 games with the Isotopes and was 0 for 2 in his first seven games with the Rockies. The 24-year-old was 2 for 22 last season with Double-A Hartford.

EARLY SHOWER: Round Rock outfielder Kyle Tucker drove in a run with a first-inning sacrifice fly Tuesday but it was all downhill from there. Tucker slammed his bat down in disgust after grounding out to pitcher Chris Rusin in the third inning. In the seventh he spiked his bat and helmet after being called out on strikes.

Tucker, the Houston Astros’ top prospect who ranks third in the PCL with 32 home runs, was ejected.

STREAK OVER: There was one bit of good news for Albuquerque’s beleaguered pitching staff Tuesday, which did not allow a home run. It snapped a streak of 19 consecutive games in which the ‘Topes had surrendered at least one homer. The Isotopes still lead minor league baseball with 215 long balls allowed.

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