History! Valdez sets MLB record with 25th straight quality start

Lefty passes deGrom’s single-season mark with six-inning performance vs. A’s

September 19th, 2022

HOUSTON -- It is easy to be overshadowed in a pitching staff that is led by Justin Verlander, the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award, but Framber Valdez’s accomplishments this season cannot be ignored. The lefty delivered his 25th consecutive quality start in the Astros’ 11-2 win over the A’s at Minute Maid Park, breaking the MLB single-season record previously held by Jacob deGrom in 2018.

Valdez, recognizing what was at stake entering his start on Sunday, allowed two runs on four hits in six innings, throwing 87 pitches.

“It means a lot to me and my career to get that record,” Valdez said in Spanish. “It is one of those things that will go down on your résumé to get a record like that. It means a lot to me, my family and all my followers.”

Here is where the Astros stand:

Games remaining: 15
Standings update: 15-game lead over the Mariners in the AL West
Magic number to clinch the AL West: 1
Magic number to clinch the AL's No. 1 seed: 8

The historic streak was put to the test in the sixth, when he gave up two straight singles to start off the inning. Valdez -- seemingly frustrated by a pitch that was called a ball near the strike zone on a 1-2 pitch to Dermis Garcia -- appeared to lose some of his composure.

As a result, Valdez tossed a 90.5 mph changeup in the heart of the zone that Garcia hit for a two-run double. Before things got worse, the Astros took a mound visit to calm Valdez down.

Valdez turned to his strength of being a ground-ball pitcher -- entering Sunday with a career 66.1 percent ground-ball rate, the highest mark in MLB since tracking began in 1987 -- and let Alex Bregman handle three ground-ball outs to end the inning.

“Bregman is a great defender and player, so he helped me get out of my troubles,” Valdez said. “A couple years ago, that inning may not have gone the same way. I have grown a lot and was able to focus [enough] to get out of that inning.”

Besides the sixth inning, Valdez was in control throughout his start, allowing no hits through his first four innings. The southpaw kept A’s hitters guessing, generating 14 whiffs while striking out seven.

Valdez remained in control when the A’s made contact, recording 10 of his 18 outs on the ground. In doing so, he inched closer to the overall record of 26 consecutive quality starts held by Bob Gibson and deGrom.

“That’s a remarkable streak that he has set,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “There’s been some great pitchers that he has surpassed in breaking that record. I’m just glad that he accomplished it.”

The streak itself -- dating back to April 25 -- is impressive, but the fashion in which Valdez has accomplished it has been just as remarkable. The lefty has been dominant all season, notably pitching a shutout on Monday against the Tigers.

It has been a continuation of what has been an impressive season for Valdez, who ranks second in wins (16) and sixth in ERA (2.57) among qualified AL starters. He has shown a lot of growth mentally, too.

“A lot more calm and confident,” said catcher Martín Maldonado, who had a four-hit game. “He’s shown a lot of maturity. He knows what he does good and listens more. He is less emotional on the mound and has shown just a lot of growth.”

Valdez’s stellar outing was yet another reminder that the Astros have enviable depth when it comes to pitching. Houston starters have combined for a 3.04 ERA, the best mark in the AL. Having been the backbone for the club all season, their continued success will be crucial come October.