The Astros have the best starting pitching rotation in baseball. Maybe one of the best of all time. Until this week not even once did a pitcher start for the Astros who wasn’t one of those starting five. That’s right, while teams with lesser staffs have had to use as many as 13 starters, the team with the best staff has also had the best health, never needing to replace a starter even once.
Then Lance McCullers went down. Up comes from AAA the little heralded lefty who I called last time he pitched “Framber Who.”
As in Who’s starting his first game in the Big Leagues? Framber Who. Who held the Angel’s to one lucky run and 2 hits in five innings? Framber Who. Who struck out Mike Trout? The new fifth man in the World Champion Houston Astros starting rotation, Framber Valdez, that’s who.
If you’re the rest of the AL, you’d hope that when an Astros starter finally went down, the Stros would only have some AAA scrub to fill in. Well so far, Valdez, whose ERA at AAA was 4.11, has pitched 9.1 innings and only allowed one run. To score the one run they did today, the Angels needed a walk, a swinging bunt single, and two fielder’s choices, one on a ground ball to the pitcher that should have been thrown home to cut down the only run. Rookie mistake there.
We’ll take it.
Although Valdez had only three strikeouts, and only four swings and misses on 77 pitches, he had batters baffled by his curve, with 16 pitches for called strikes. Only two Angels hitters managed contact that would be classified as hard hit. The average exit velocity against Valdez was 79.26 MPH. His pitch score was 59, a good bit better than the future Hall of Famer who pitched yesterday.
Keep it up rookie.
The next time the league leading (by ERA) Astros bullpen blows a lead, heaven forbid, please remember the day they held the Angels to no runs in four innings while getting six strikeouts total, Trout twice. Brad Peacock got long relief today, shutting down the Angels in the sixth and seventh innings, Rondon was set up with a scoreless eighth, and Roberto Osuna saved it, his second save as an Astro and 11th of the year. His strike out of pinch hitter Shohei Ohtani, whom he hit yesterday, to end the game, was a classic. Strike three was a slider that cut across the plate from top to bottom, right to left, and dotted Ohtani’s low inside corner. The poor rookie phenom flailed hopelessly to end the game.
All Astros scoring came in the third inning, when Evan Gattis led off with a single. Max Stassi walked, and an Alex Bregman single loaded the bases with one out. Carlos Correa crushed a hard single to left center scoring Gattis and Stassi. August’s no doubt Astros player of the month, Marwin Gonzalez, then added what would be an insurance run with a single, scoring Bregman.
The Astros maintain a 1.5 game lead against the tough Oakland A’s, who just happen to be coming into Minute Maid Park to face the Stros tomorrow. No doubt the biggest series of the year thus far. The A’s ace, Sean Manaea, will not face the Astros, as he was placed on the 10 day DL.
Gerrit Cole faces Brett Anderson. Game time 7:10 PM.
Box score and videos here.