SPOILER ALERT: This is an appreciation post for Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier. You can’t fall in love enough with them. These two guys have stepped up for the Astros in a big way not only during the 2020 postseason, but also during the whole regular campaign.
Javier and Valdez are two of the biggest reasons the Astros swept the Twins in the Wild Card Series, against all the odds.
Speaking of the regular season, both Dominicans found their way into the starting rotation and did a helluva job. Both combined to get 10 of the Astros’ 29 victories, collected 10 quality starts, and were good for a 3.53 ERA.
If you take a look at their stats and what they’ve done so far, you have to do it considering current circumstances. First, the Astros played a difficult season and got all eyes on them after the cheating scandal. Second, Houston was plagued by injuries, lost ace Justin Verlander, and didn’t have José Urquidy for a big portion the of time. Third and last, we are speaking about two guys who were clear underdogs.
The guy who’s more linked to the third point is Valdez. After debuting with eight appearances in 2018, he didn’t have a good year in 2019. In fact, he was awful: In 70 2⁄3 innings, the same number he threw in 2020, he registered a 5.86 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP, besides struggling heavily with his control (5.6 BB/9).
This year everything changed for Framber as he’s had a career year. He outpitched his 2019 version and finished the regular campaign with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. His control problems were gone: 2.0 BB/9 and he lowered his H/9 and HR/9 rates while rising his K/9 number.
Regarding Javier, he’s only a 23-year-old that, even though was having an outstanding minor-league career, never played above Double-A except for two appearances in Triple-A last year.
The young lefty ended up giving the team a chance in almost every start of his. The Astros won seven of his 10 outings (7-3).
You have to face it. The Astros entered the Wild Card Series against the Twins with more doubts than chances. But they were up to the challenge and silenced their offensive order. That’s how they advanced to the American League Divisional Series, where they’re gonna collide against the Oakland Athletics.
But would it have been possible without Valdez and/or Javier? I’m not sure.
In Game 1, right after Greinke was pulled after four innings, Valdez was brought in and he just delivered. With five scoreless frames of two hits, two walks, and five strikeouts, Framber not only took the win, but he made history.
Valdez became the first Astros reliever to ever throw at least five zeroes and allow two or fewer hits in the history of the postseason. In general, he’s the first to do it since Madison Bumgarner and Yusmeiro Petit back in 2014. No other guy has done it since 2000.
When it comes to Javier, he set things up for closer Ryan Pressly in Game 2 with three hitless episodes, enough to get the win. He’s one of four relievers to have a performance like that in the playoffs since 2000: Francisco Rodríguez (2002), Chris Capuano (2013), Chris Young (2015), and now Javier.
Out of the nine pitchers who have had a similar appearance in history (a win with 3+ IP, 0 H, and 0 R), the Dominican is the second to do it in his first career game in the postseason, along with Capuano.
How about those two? I know things could be harder against the Athletics, but Javier and Valdez have been good enough to consider them two of the most important pieces for the Astros in the 2020 regular season and the early stages of the playoffs.