Astros ace Framber Valdez no-hits Guardians
Framber Valdez throws 16th no-hitter in Astros history, first by a lefty starter
HOUSTON – As the crowd at Minute Maid Park stirred with the energy usually reserved for playoff baseball, Framber Valdez took the mound in the eighth inning Tuesday night confident that he would finish his no-hitter against the Cleveland Guardians.
An inning later, the veteran lefthander confidently strolled back out to the mound as the crowd of 37,539 stood on its feet and roared in anticipation.
“Vamos, Frambozo,” Dusty Baker told his Dominican lefty as Valdez prepared to put the finishing touches on the first no-hitter of his career, the 16th in franchise history and the first Astros no-hitter by a lefthanded starter.
The 2-0 victory also was the first complete game no-hitter thrown by a Latino starter in Astros history.
Framber Valdez put the ultimate exclamation point on what had already been arguably the most exciting day of the defending World Series champions’ season. He arrived at Minute Maid Park a little after 3 p.m. buoyed by the news that three-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander was rejoining the team via trade with the Mets.
Dominant Framber Valdez
Four hours later, the two-time All-Star reminded the baseball world that the Astros already have one ace waiting for Verlander. With catcher Martin Maldonado calling a masterful game behind the plate, Valdez dominated the Guardians with a brilliant curveball, strong sinker and a deceptive changeup.
He needed only 93 pitches while striking out seven and walking one.
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“I went into the game positive to throw the game as I normally do, batter after batter, pitch after pitch,” he said. “When I got into the seventh, I felt super well. When I got into the eighth, I said, ‘I think I can finish this game, finish this game without a hit, and I’ll do the best that I can.’”
Valdez (9-7, 3.07 ERA) faced the minimum 27 batters. He retired the first 12 Guardians before designated hitter Oscar Gonzalez drew a leadoff walk in the fifth. That eight-pitch duel was one of only two times a Guardians batter drew three balls in a plate appearance.
Valdez then induced a fly out to center from David Fry and a double-play grounder to second from Will Brennan to escape the fifth unscathed. He needed only five pitches in the sixth and five more in the seventh to carry the no-hitter into the eighth.
The Guardians almost caught a break when Jose Ramirez hit a two-out chopper up the middle in the seventh. It deflected off Valdez’s glove, but shortstop Jeremy Peña sprinted over to the left side of the bag to field the ball and rifle a throw to first.
Peña made another key defensive play when he charged in to field Fry’s weak chopper for the second out of the eighth. Valdez made it look easy in the ninth. He induced Gabriel Arias’ weak grounder to second to start the inning. Then Myles Straw lined out to shallow center.
Following pal Cristian Javier
After inducing Cam Gallagher’s weak liner to short for the final out, Valdez was mobbed by his teammates near the mound as the raucous crowd roared. Valdez became the first Latino to throw a nine-inning no-hitter for the Astros.
“I thank God to know that us Latinos do a great job,” Valdez said. “We’re doing a good job for our story, for our family, for our country, and putting our (Dominican) Republic up high.”
Valdez’s gem was also the Astros’ first complete game no-hitter since Verlander threw his against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 1, 2019.
The Astros’ last three no-hitters have been started by natives of the Dominican Republic. Valdez’s close friend Cristian Javier started two combined no-hitters last year for the Astros. Javier’s first no-hitter was against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the regular season, and his second combined no-hitter was in Game 4 of the World Series.
“Cristian Javier celebrated this the way I celebrated his,” Valdez said. “We celebrated today. We’re now two. We’re on the same page. We remain focused. He congratulated me, and I thanked him for the support that he gives me and the support we give each other.”
Valdez eager to ‘keep making history’
A bottle of champagne was chilling in front of Valdez’s locker stall when he returned to the clubhouse after visiting with the media. Baker also left a wine bottle from the Baker Family Wines in Valdez’s locker to commemorate the no-hitter. He was also presented with the ball from the final out.
Valdez carried the Astros’ rotation last October. He won two World Series games, including the decisive Game 6 at Minute Maid Park for the franchise’s second title and his first. Yet, he ranked Tuesday’s no-hitter as the top moment of his career.
“It’s something special for me to be the first Astros lefthanded starter to throw a no-hitter,” he said. “I feel good. I feel focused to keep making history with the Astros.”
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