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Framber Valdez, Astros outduel Shohei Ohtani, Angels

Apr 7, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels catcher Max Stassi (33) looks on as starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) waits on the mound as manager Joe Maddon (left) approaches to replace him during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles superstar Shohei Ohtani made history, but it was Framber Valdez who stole the show while leading the Houston Astros to a 3-1 Opening Day victory over the Angels on Thursday night in Anaheim, Calif.

Ohtani, the defending American League MVP, became the first player in major league history to make his team’s first pitch of the season and also see his team’s first pitch from the batter’s box as the leadoff hitter.

Ohtani made 80 pitches in 4 2/3 innings, allowing only a two-out RBI single by Alex Bregman in the third inning. He struck out nine, the most by an Angels starter on Opening Day since Jered Weaver struck out 10 in 2012.

Valdez was better, though, throwing 6 2/3 scoreless innings while allowing only two hits. He struck out six and walked one, and he had a stretch between the second and sixth innings during which he retired 15 Angels hitters in a row.

After Angels second baseman Matt Duffy led off the second inning with a single, Valdez didn’t allow another baserunner until Mike Trout reached on an error leading off the seventh. The top of the Angels’ lineup — Ohtani, Trout and Anthony Rendon — went a combined 0-for-8 with two strikeouts against Valdez.

Rendon followed Trout in the seventh with a drive near the left field foul pole that hooked foul. The Angels requested a replay review, but the call was upheld, and Rendon grounded into a double play on the next pitch.

Ohtani began third inning with strikeouts of Martin Maldonado and Jose Altuve before Michael Brantley, who finished with two hits, doubled to right-center. Bregman then singled to left on a 2-2 pitch to drive home Brantley with first run of the game.

Bregman and Yordan Alvarez hit back-to-back homers to begin the eighth against Ryan Tepera, increasing Houston’s lead to 3-0. David Fletcher’s RBI triple in the bottom of the inning accounted for the Angels’ only run of the game.

Houston’s Ryan Pressly pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the save.

–Field Level Media