We must retire the word Framberin from the dictionary of baseball slang. Framberin no longer exists. Defined as erratic and wild pitching that somehow manages to limit runs through luck and ground out double plays, the inventor, namesake, and master of Framberin is no longer our beloved “Framberin Man.”
Framber Valdez has matured into as rock solid and dependable a pitcher as any in baseball. Today he reached the pinnacle, a complete game shutout, rare in the contemporary game, efficiently dispatching the Detroit Tigers with only 107 pitches and allowing only one walk en route to an Astros 7-0 victory.
It was his 24th consecutive quality start, approaching the all-time record, 26, held by the legendary Bob Gibson in the asterisk year (for pitchers) of 1968. It also ties Jacob DeGrom’s single-season record.
But the Astros bats had a day too.
The Stros offense can get you any way they want. Sunday it was with five homers. But under old-school manager Dusty Baker they can kill you with small ball too. And thus, that is how the Astros started this game in Detroit. Three singles by Jose Altuve, Jeremy Pena, and Alex Bregman yielded two runs with the help of stolen bases by Altuve (17) and Pena (10).
The Astros saved a run in the bottom of the first on an outstanding defensive play by first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who gunned down Riley Green at home on a fielder’s choice.
And in the bottom of the third ace-fielding, rifle-armed left-fielder Yordan Alvarez got his seventh outfield assist by gunning down Will Castro at home, saving a run and Framber’s shutout for the third out of the inning.
And in the third inning, smart baserunning helped produce another Astros run. With runners on first and third and one out, Kyle Tucker hit a grounder to second. Alex Bregman avoided a quick tag by the second baseman, avoiding a quick force double play, allowing the runner from third to score. The Tigers did get a double play, 4-3-6, but by avoiding the easy tag, Bregman gave the runner on third enough time to score before he was eventually tagged out sliding into second from the throw by the first baseman.
The Astros added a couple more off of Tigers starter Ed Rodriguez in the fifth inning, starting with a Pena double followed by an Alvarez single, advancing Pena to third base.
Smart baserunning helped the Astros yet again. Although a sharp Bregman grounder to third offered Pena no choice but to head home for a sure out, he managed to stay in a rundown long enough to allow Alvarez to take third and Bregman to advance all the way to second base. A Kyle Tucker groundout allowed Alvarez to score, and a Yuli Gurriel double plated Bregman.
Although we must preface a discussion of Framber Valdez’s performance with the disclaimer that the Tigers are the worst hitting team in baseball, they still do manage to score runs in most games. Tonight, Valdez held the Tigers scoreless for nine innings, allowing six hits and one walk while whiffing eight Tigers. He threw 72 of his 107 pitches for strikes and got nine groundouts to four flyouts, including one double play. Valdez’s season ERA is down to 2.50.
It was the second complete game in Valdez’s career and his first complete game shutout. And it was also, of course, his 24th consecutive quality start.
As already stated, Valdez got great help from his defense, including plays like this.
The offense tonight was led by the top of the order, with Altuve, Alvarez, and Bregman, 1, 3, and 4 hitters, respectively, all having two hits. The 2-hole batter, Jeremy Pena, had three hits, a double, two runs, and an RBI to lift his season BA over .250, and he, along with Alvarez, seem to be heating up nicely ahead of the playoffs.
The five-hitter, Kyle Tucker, was one for five but had a two-RBI single in the ninth inning to increase the Astros lead to 7-0.
The Astros chug inexorably along to a 100+ win season against all expectations. And they open their lead in the overall AL standing to six games.
Tomorrow they send the rookie phenom Hunter Brown to the mound as he tries to stake a late claim to a place on the playoff roster.
Game time another early start, 5:40 CT
Note: Did you know that among his many other records, Babe Ruth is fourth all-time in the percentage of quality starts, 71.4%, behind Jacob DeGrom, Clayton Kershaw, and Jeff Tesrau. And ahead of notables like Tom Seaver, Chris Sale, Gerrit Cole (and those are just in the top ten)