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 has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.