Valdez throws 7 scoreless, AL-best Astros beat Rangers 7-3

Getty Images
0 Comments

HOUSTON — After moving one-half game ahead of the slumping New York Yankees for the AL’s best record with a win over the Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros were already looking ahead to their next challenge.

They are determined to play better against the visiting Athletics this weekend after the AL West bottom-dwellers swept them in Oakland late last month.

“There’s a lot of baseball left and we’ve got to keep working,” catcher Martin Maldonado said. “We’ve got a new series coming up and we’ve got to take that series more seriously after we got swept by them last time. We’ve got … to have that winning mentality, especially in those three games.”

Framber Valdez threw seven shutout innings, Maldonado and Alex Bregman homered with three RBIs each, and the Astros beat the Rangers 7-3 on Thursday in manager Dusty Baker’s return after he missed five games with COVID-19.

Valdez (11-4) allowed four singles and struck out eight to get his third straight win as the Astros improved to 72-41.

“It was outstanding to be back,” Baker said. “Especially when you come back with the win and come back with Framber throwing the game that he threw.”

Houston roughed up rookie Cole Ragans (0-1) for five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

“He didn’t have his best command and his best stuff today,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “But I will say he battled through the game.”

Jeremy Pena and Jake Meyers hit consecutive singles with one out in the second inning before Maldonado’s soaring shot made it 3-0.

Yuli Gurriel singled to start Houston’s fifth, and Bregman’s one-out home run clanged off the wall in left field, extending the lead to 5-0 and chasing the 24-year-old Ragans, who made his second major league start.

Ezequiel Duran singled with no outs in the third before Valdez hit Bubba Thompson with a pitch. A single by Adolis Garcia with two outs loaded the bases, but Valdez retired Jonah Heim to escape the jam.

Heim was the first of 11 straight batters Valdez sat down before Leody Taveras singled with one out in the seventh. Charlie Culberson sent Taveras to third with a single, but Valdez struck out Duran and Thompson to end the inning and his day.

“He pitched an outstanding game,” Baker said. ” He’s very serious about his work and was very composed.”

Thursday was Valdez’s 19th straight quality start, which is the longest streak in the majors this season and ranks second in franchise history. He has thrown a career-high 142 innings this season, which leads the AL.

Bregman helped the Astros pad the lead with an RBI single in the seventh inning and Aledmys Diaz extended it to 7-0 with a sacrifice fly.

Gurriel, who entered the game in an 0-for-12 slump, matched a season high with three hits.

Nathaniel Lowe and Taveras both hit RBI singles in the eighth inning to cut the lead to 7-2. Marcus Semien homered with two outs in the ninth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: RHP Joe Barlow (right index finger blister) is scheduled to make one more rehabilitation appearance before the team decides if he’s ready to return.

Astros: LHP Blake Taylor (elbow inflammation) was set to begin a rehabilitation assignment at Houston’s spring training complex in Florida.

UP NEXT

Rangers: Texas has yet to name its starter for Friday night’s opener of a three-game series against visiting Seattle.

Astros: Luis Garcia (8-8, 3.93 ERA) will start for Houston Friday night in the series opener against Oakland. Adam Oller (1-5, 7.63) is scheduled to start for the A’s.

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Two
Getty Images
1 Comment

ARLINGTON, Texas – Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesus Tinoco into the first couple of rows of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.

Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.

A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.

“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”

Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.

After a single in five at-bats in the first game Tuesday, Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.

The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.

Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.

“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”