Valdez delivers 23rd consecutive quality start

Workhorse lefty navigates uncharacteristically sloppy defense, but errors prove costly

September 7th, 2022

HOUSTON -- The Astros went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position Tuesday night, committed a season-high-tying three fielding errors, two of which led directly to runs being scored, and stranded nine runners on base.

In other words, Houston starter Framber Valdez didn’t have much room for mistakes against the Rangers, who wound up taking advantage of the miscues and the lack of offense to beat Valdez and the Astros, 4-3, at Minute Maid Park. Texas snapped a nine-game losing streak.

“Those physical errors happen sometimes, and when they happen, they seem to happen in bunches,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Let’s get them out of the way and hopefully, it’s a long time before we make some more. Framber, he pitched a good game. He got another quality start. We were hoping he’d get through the seventh.”

Valdez, who went 5-0 in five August starts, lost for the first time since July 9, but he kept his streak of consecutive quality starts alive at 23. He threw 6 2/3 innings and allowed six hits, four walks and four runs (two earned), striking out 11 batters -- his second-highest total this season.

The run of 23 consecutive quality starts extends his Major League record by a left-hander and ties Jack Taylor in 1902 for the fourth-longest streak in Major League history.

“It was vintage Framber,” Baker said. “He had a good breaking ball. He struck out 11. He was good. It’s that one crooked inning and that [second] inning, [the Rangers] hit him pretty good. He held them to three runs [through six innings] and gave us an opportunity to come back.”

The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the second on a two-run double by Ezequiel Duran, putting Valdez’s quality start streak in jeopardy early. Duran wound up scoring on a throwing error on second baseman Jose Altuve for an unearned run.

“Those are part of the game,” Valdez said of the errors. “They’re not hard to pitch at all around, and it happens to everyone.”

The game was tied at 3 in the seventh, when Corey Seager reached with one out on a fielding error by first baseman Yuli Gurriel and wound up scoring on a wild pitch. The second unearned run was enough to sink the Astros, who managed one hit after the fifth.

“That was a tough pitch for [catcher Martín Maldonado] to handle, because it bounced way out in front,” Baker said. “We left 10 or 11 guys on base and had plenty of opportunities. We stole a lot of bases [season-high five], which meant that we had somebody in scoring position. Just couldn't push that run across the plate or multiple runs.”

Valdez (14-5) took over the AL lead in innings pitched at 170 2/3, which is well beyond the career-high 154 1/3 he threw last year in the regular season and the playoffs. He still has four or five starts remaining in the regular season before what is shaping up to be another long postseason run.

“I still feel strong, and [I’m] still working hard, and I’m going to continue with the same intensity,” he said.