Framber Valdez leads Astros to Game 7 against Rays at SCLA


SAN DIEGO – Another spectacular feat by Dominican left-hander Framber Valdez and his team’s best offense in a while led the Houston Astros 7-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday at Petco Park in San Diego, in the sixth game of the American League Championship Series.

With their third straight win, the Astros forced a decisive seventh clash on Saturday. It will be the defining game number 28 in the history of the Championship Series, which was created in 1969.

Houston is the second team to win three games in a row, after falling 0-3 in a best-of-seven series in Major League Baseball history. The first to achieve the feat, the Boston Red Sox of the 2004 youth circuit final against the New York Yankees, is the only one to come back from 0-3 to win the playoff.

“It is like a movie that we are living, but we still have to win tomorrow because otherwise everything we have done so far will be worthless,” said Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa, who hit three hits and drove a run to get there. to 48 in the postseason in his career.

Only Derek Jeter (61) and Albert Pujols (49) have more RBIs than Correa, who finished Game 5 with a home run, among all infielders who have played in the major league postseason.

Outfielder George Springer led a four-run rally in the fifth inning with a two-run single, Jose Altuve had two hits and scored twice, Michael Brantley hit two hits, and Michael Tucker homered and hit two on an attack from 11 hits for Houston, who now outscores the Rays .268 to .199 in batting average.

“This was the biggest win of my entire career, I’m happy for all the fans and people in Houston,” said Dusty Baker, a 71-year-old baseball man who has won more than 1,800 regular-series games and was in the 2002 World Series with the San Francisco Giants.

The key to Saturday’s win and a Game 7 in the AL Final is Houston’s pitching, especially the starter. Led by Valdez, the Astros’ starters have a 1.97 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 32.0 innings in the series.

Valdez worked six innings of three hits, one run, three walks and nine strikeouts to put his mark at 3-1 with a 1.87 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 24.0 innings and four appearances (three starts) in the playoffs.

“This was the biggest day of my career, a special day for my family,” Valdez said. “I am proud to be a part of one of Houston’s greatest triumphs and I thank God for giving me the opportunity and strength to do a good job,” he added.

After relieving five scoreless innings and winning Game 1 of the Wild Card Series against the Minnesota Twins, Valdez has worked at least six innings of two runs or fewer against Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay.

Valdez is the second pitcher in Astros history with at least nine strikeouts in a game in which the Astros faced elimination. Right-hander Gerrit Cole struck out 10 in Game 5 of last year’s Divisional Series, also against the Rays.

Valdez had eight of his nine strikeouts from the curveball, a pitch he used on 52% of his 101 pitches on Friday. It is the fifth highest frequency of use of the same pitch in a playoff game since 2008.

Tampa Bay’s hitters, who hit .284 against the curve in the regular series, went 24-3 with 14 strikeouts in Valdez’s two outings.

“I trust my curve in any count, against any hitter. I think tonight I was the same as in all my previous outings,” Valdez said.

“Framber has been our horse, the man who has carried us here since the regular season,” said Puerto Rican wide receiver Martín Maldonado.

“When we most needed him, he was there for us,” said Maldonado, who was the protagonist of a key play of the game.

Tampa Bay led 1-0 going into the fifth inning with star Blake Snell on the mound. The left-hander had overcome a couple of situations, but had been forced by the Astros to reverse 71 pitches. Shortstop Willy Adames had driven in the only run of the game with a double off Valdez in the second inning.

Snell walked first baseman Yuli Gurriel for the second straight inning and designated hitter Aledmys Diaz singled at 3-2. With the two Cubans in circulation, manager Kevin Cash called in efficient Dominican reliever Diego Castillo to face Maldonado, the ninth batter, before Houston’s lineup started a new round.

Castillo entered the game with a 0.00 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 13.0 postseason innings. The Rays bullpen hadn’t let any of the 21 running backs it inherited since the 2020 playoffs kicked off.

Old-school manager Baker sacrificed Maldonado to put runners in scoring position. Cash, leader of a new era, put the box to expand the possibilities of serving at the plate with rolled by the box. The results indicate that the veteran got the best part. Maldonado, in 2018 and Friday, has the last two sacrifices of a Houston position player in the postseason.

Springer grounded well into the hole where a second baseman normally plays, scooping the ball into right field and sending the 2-1 lead runs to the plate. Altuve hit a powerful line down left field to drive in Springer and advanced to second base when the outfielder misfired the ball into the infield.

A “pasból” from catcher Mike Zunino sent Altuve to third base, from where he scored on a Correa hit. In a quick combination of timely batting by the Astros and oversights by Tampa Bay, Baker’s troop took a lead, which with his sixth-inning homer, Tucker extended to four runs, the most of either team in the first six. series encounters.

In the seventh inning, Altuve singled, Brantley singled him, Correa sent Brantley to third with a double and Tucker popped him.

Manuel Margot hit two home runs in the seventh and eighth innings, which produced the last three runs for Tampa Bay.

Charlie Morton (Rays) and Lance McCullers Jr (Astros), the likely starting pitchers for Game 7, combined to pitch a complete game in the seventh of the 2017 World Series for Houston to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers.

A major league investigation revealed that that year, the Astros used an illegal scheme to steal signals from opponents. As punishment for their actions, the MLB fined the Astros $ 5 million and sentenced them not to be able to select in the first two rounds of the 2020 and 2021 collegiate drawings, in addition to suspending general manager Jeff Luhnow for one year and to manager AJ Hinch, which opened the door for Baker to return to directing after a two-year hiatus.

“This is wonderful. This team has been through a lot since the year started,” Baker said.

“In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, we lost our main pitcher, Justin Verlander, then our closer Roberto Osuna, also Yordan Álvarez, among others. But this team never made excuses,” Baker added.

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