Valdez has MLB-record 25th quality start, Astros down Athletics

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HOUSTON – Working closely with Framber Valdez, Houston catcher Martin Maldonado has enjoyed a front-row seat for the journey that has turned the left-hander into one of baseball’s top pitchers in his fifth season.

“It is a lot of calm, a lot of confidence and a lot of maturity from him,” Maldonado said. “He knows what he can do good. Listening more and taking pride in the work, less emotional on the mound. So I’ve seen a lot of stuff going into (his growth).”

Valdez set a major league record with his 25th straight quality start, and Yordan Alvarez and Maldonado had four RBIs apiece in the Astros’ 11-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

Alvarez, who ranks second in the AL with 37 homers, drove in three runs with a double in Houston’s five-run third inning. He tacked on an RBI double in the sixth.

Alvarez extended his hitting streak to a season-high nine games. He piled up nine hits, four homers and nine RBIs in the series, helping Houston take three of four.

Valdez (16-5) allowed two runs and four hits in six innings to pass Jacob deGrom (24 in 2018) for the most consecutive quality starts in a single season in MLB history. Valdez, who threw his first career shutout in his last start, is 15-4 during his streak, which began April 25.

“It’s one of those things that just goes down on your resume, and to be able to have a record like that does mean a lot for me,” he said through a translator.

Valdez’s career-high 16 wins rank second in the AL behind teammate Justin Verlander (17) and his 2.57 ERA is sixth.

Manager Dusty Baker raved about the consistency Valdez has brought to the team this season.

“That’s a remarkable streak,” Baker said. “There have been some some great pitchers that he surpassed by breaking this record and I’m just glad that he accomplished it and we won the ballgame.”

Maldonado tied a career high with his first four-hit game since 2015, and he scored four times for the first time in his 12-year career. He singled three times before smacking a three-run homer to left with two outs in the seventh.

Oakland rookie Ken Waldichuk (0-2) was tagged for five runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings in his fifth career start.

Dermis Garcia hit a two-run double in the sixth, but the Athletics couldn’t get much else going offensively as they lost for the fourth time in six games.

“This team has competed all year,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “We fight. We have shown that. We’re playing some good baseball teams right now that are going to be in the postseason. … It’s a test, and we are going to continue to grind.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: OF Ramon Laureano was placed on the injured list with a strained right hamstring. INF Jordan Diaz was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to take his spot on the roster. Diaz made his major league debut and got his first hit on a single with one out in the seventh.

UP NEXT

Athletics: JP Sears (2-2, 5.13 ERA) starts Tuesday night for Oakland in the opener of a three-game series against Seattle.

Astros: Luis Garcia (12-8, 4.04 ERA) opposes Tampa Bay’s Drew Rasmussen (10-5, 2.77) in the opener of a three-game series Monday night.

Pujols hits 701st career home run, connects for Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS — Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 701st home run, connecting Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pujols launched a slider from former teammate Johan Oviedo over the Big Mac Land sign in left field at Busch Stadium. The solo drive in the fourth inning made it 1-all.

Pujols faced Oviedo for the first time and made the 24-year-old righty the 456th different pitcher he’s homered against.

The St. Louis star hadn’t homered in a week since hitting No. 699 and 700 at Dodger Stadium last Friday. Pujols had gone 10 at-bats without a home run after two starts and one pinch-hit appearance.

The Busch Stadium crowd gave the 42-year-old Pujols a long standing ovation before he came out of the Cardinals dugout to tip his cap for a curtain call.

Pujols hit his 22nd home run this season for the NL Central champion Cardinals.

Pujols is fourth on the career home run list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).