Framber Valdez did it again!
It was his 22nd straight quality start and another example of Valdez’s continuing maturity as a true ace, as he went eight innings, allowing only two runs with no walks. Behind him, the Yordan Alvarez-less Astros provided just enough offense for the Astros to maintain their four-game lead in the AL over the Yankees.
The Astros looked poised to tee off on Rangers starter Dane Dunning in the first inning. Jose Altuve led off with a double, followed by a Jeremy Pena single. Alex Bregman drilled a sharp line drive to left for a sacrifice fly scoring Altuve, followed by a hard Kyle Tucker single up the middle. But the rally ended with a Yuli Gurriel double play.
The Astros added two more runs in the third, starting with a lead-off homer by Altuve, his 22nd of the season.
With one out Bregman worked a walk, and with two outs, Yuli Gurriel reached second on a throwing error, sending Bregman to third. After a Trey Mancini walk loaded the bases. Christian Vazquez singled home Bregman. However, just recalled J.J. Matijevic struck out, stranding three runners.
The Rangers cut the lead to 3-2 with two solo homers, one by Bubba Thompson in the third, his first career dinger, and another by Ezequiel Duran in the fifth.
The Astros added a run in the seventh inning. Pena opened with a single, his third of the game. Bregman and Kyle Tucker followed with walks to load the bases. This prompted a pitching change, with Jose Leclerc replacing Taylor Hearn.
Leclerc promptly walked Yuli Gurriel on some questionable calls by the ump, scoring Pena, but he got Trey Mancini on a sharp line and ended the inning on a Vazquez double play. It was the second time the Stros left the bases loaded.
It was the 22nd straight quality start for Valdez. This is an all-time record for a left-handed pitcher.
In some ways, it was an uncharacteristic start for Valdez. Usually, “Framberin” means a fairly high number of walks but a limited number of hits and homers and tons of groundouts. Tonight Valdez allowed seven hits, two homers but didn’t walk anyone in eight innings of two-run ball. It was only his third walkless game this year, and he averages more than one walk per three innings. He only got nine groundouts, whereas his groundout percentage for the season is an amazing 67.5% (before the game). Valdez struck out eight.
Hector Neris came in for Valdez in the ninth and shut down the Rangers 1-2-3.
The Astros go for the short sweep tomorrow at 1:05 CT, sending Cristian Javier against the Rangers’ best, Martin Perez.