DETROIT -- Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez had thrown at least seven innings in each of his previous four June starts, which figured to bode well, considering his sixth start of the season Saturday afternoon came in the first game of a doubleheader scheduled for seven innings.
Valdez did deliver a complete game -- in six innings -- but Houston’s vaunted offense was handcuffed in a 3-1 loss by Tigers starter Casey Mize, who ended the Astros’ 11-game winning streak by holding them to one run in six innings in Game 1 of the split doubleheader at Comerica Park. It was only Houston’s fifth loss in 23 games in June.
“I’m sure it was on his mind that he had a good game against us early in the year in Houston,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Mize, who threw seven scoreless innings at Houston in April. “He was effectively wild. He made some pitches when he had to. He would miss with the slider and come right back with it. The first one would be close, and the second one would be on the black. He threw a good game. You can’t take anything away from him. We were just beaten by a better pitcher.”
Valdez (4-1) gave up a tie-breaking homer in the fifth on a changeup to Tigers shortstop Zack Short, who was called up to be Detroit’s 27th man for the doubleheader.
“That pitch to Short, I think it was a little bit hanging,” Valdez said. “He took advantage of it and put a pretty good swing on it.”
Valdez threw 56 of 86 pitches for strikes, relying mostly on his sinker, changeup and curveball mix. He got six swings-and-misses on his changeup, which is a pitch he’s relied on more the past two seasons.
Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, who had Valdez for two years in Houston when he was struggling with his control early in his career, credits Houston pitching coach Brent Strom for transforming Valdez into one of the top lefties in the game.
“Strommy is one of the best, if not the best in the league, so I’m not surprised they've been able to hone him in and get him in the strike zone,” Hinch said. “He’s nasty. … He doesn't get the recognition, but he's put some seasons now together back to back that will open some eyes and get him more attention.”
The Astros, who had scored double-digit runs in three of the previous four games and averaged 8.5 runs per game during their winning streak, managed only a third-inning RBI single by Carlos Correa. The Astros began the game with consecutive singles and appeared to be setting the stage for another big offensive day before Mize struck out Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez and got Correa to ground out.
“When you’re not scoring a lot of runs, you have to take advantage of those situations,” Baker said. “We had the right guys up there. They usually come through, but Mize threw some quality pitches to Yordan and he threw some quality pitches to Yuli. You don’t see that [strikeout] too much from Yuli. I thought we were off to the races, especially in a seven-inning game. You really [have] to take advantage of every situation.”