A well-rested Framber Valdez took the mound for the Houston Astros Monday, turning in one of his best performances of an outstanding season. The Astros certainly weren’t short of runs, as they racked up 10 in a shutout win at the Big A.
Movin’ On Up
Valdez gave up just six hits through seven innings, Marwin González launched a grand slam, and the Astros moved closer to the AL West title with their victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
Martin Maldonado cracked a three-run homer in the eighth, José Siri hit a leadoff homer, and Carlos Correa had an early RBI single for one of his four hits. Opening their final road trip of the regular season, The Astros (89-61) got 17 hits in their fifth win in six games.
Valdez (11-5) had a strong return after missing his previous turn in the rotation with a cut on his hand. The lefty struck out six while pitching around three walks. He escaped a bases-loaded circumstance with his 98th and final pitch in the seventh.
“I really took advantage of that time off not to just rest, but to focus on my next outing,” Valdez said through a translator. “I wanted to make sure I did my best job. … What I need to do is focus when the playoffs are coming and be ready to do my job 100%. We’re just ready to give it everything we have and to get to that World Series.”
The Astros moved seven games ahead of second-place Oakland, which lost to Seattle, to continue closing in on its fourth AL West championship in five seasons. Their ‘magic number dropped to six.
“I watch the scoreboard every day, but we just want to go out and win,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ve still got some work to do. … If you just win, that magic number will no longer be magic.”
Jaime Barría (2-4) gave up 10 hits through nearly six innings for Los Angeles, who fell six games under .500. It’s the first time they’ve done so since late June.
Room for Error
Siri hit his fourth career homer on Barría’s third pitch. Correa brought Yordan Álvarez home later in the first, but the Astros didn’t score again until the eighth.
“I need to work on coming out in the first inning,” said Barría, whose first-inning ERA increased to 9.90. “The past couple of times, they’ve made harder contact in the first inning. I need to work on my focus going out there and getting ready to go.”
Los Angeles (72-78) is slipping down the stretch, going just 6-11 in September and coming closer to its sixth consecutive losing season – seventh straight missing the postseason.
With two outs in the seventh, Los Angeles loaded the bases. However, Valdez induced a grounder from David Fletcher to Correa, whose bouncing throw from shortstop beat the Angels’ speedster to first.
“We just kept putting the ball on the ground against (Valdez),” Los Angeles manager Joe Maddon said. “They have good pitching. Among all the (playoff-bound) teams I’ve seen so far, I think they’re the best one I’ve seen. They’ve got a pretty complete roster.”
Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) will make his fourth major league start for Los Angeles against the Astros’ José Urquidy (7-3, 3.38).