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Framber Valdez dominates in Astros’ tight win over Athletics

May 21, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez (59) walks off the mound after pitching during the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Framber Valdez rebounded from his worst start of the season in stellar fashion as the Houston Astros completed a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics with a 2-0 victory on Sunday.

Valdez (4-4) allowed four hits and did not issue a walk while twirling his fifth career complete game and second shutout. He struck out seven on the heels of allowing four runs over four innings against the Chicago Cubs last week, his shortest outing and one that snapped his string of seven consecutive quality starts.

Valdez retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced with Jesus Aguilar reaching on a leadoff infield single in the second when Valdez was slow to cover first base on a grounder to the right side. Aledmys Diaz singled leading off the fifth, but Valdez coaxed an inning-ending double play from Shea Langeliers to face the minimum in that frame.

Esteury Ruiz smacked a two-out double to left in the sixth, with Ruiz initially ruled out before the call was reversed following a challenge. Valdez struck out Brent Rooker to strand Ruiz, retired the Athletics in order in the seventh and eighth, and fanned Ramon Laureano to end the ninth with Nick Allen at third. The Astros needed Valdez to be sharp for they scuffled offensively.

Houston finished 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Athletics right-hander James Kaprielian, recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on Saturday, pitched effectively during his five-inning stint. He allowed one run on three hits and four walks while recording five strikeouts.

Kaprielian (0-4) retired the Astros in order only once, doing so in the bottom of the third inning. But he induced a double-play grounder off the bat of Alex Bregman to negate a leadoff walk issued to Jose Altuve in the first inning and struck out Chas McCormick with runners at the corners to cap the second. Kaprielian did not surrender a hit until Jake Meyers stroked a leadoff single in the fifth, with Meyers later scoring the first run when Altuve delivered an RBI single.

The Astros doubled that advantage an inning later when Yordan Alvarez greeted Oakland reliever Sam Moll with a leadoff double. Alvarez subsequently scored on a wild pitch, but the Astros squandered another scoring opportunity when McCormick, facing Athletics right-hander Lucas Erceg, fanned with runners on the corner.

Houston first baseman Jose Abreu hit into an inning-ending groundout with the bases loaded in the seventh, wasting a leadoff double from Martin Maldonado. The Astros stranded eight.

The Astros swept their six-game homestand and extended their winning streak to seven games. Oakland has dropped 12 of 14 games.

–Field Level Media

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