Framber Valdez spares Astros’ bullpen in beating A’s

Framber Valdez logged seven shutout innings and the Houston Astros claimed a four-game series against the visiting Oakland Athletics with a 3-0 victory on Wednesday.

With the Astros in desperate need of length from their starter, Valdez (3-1) delivered. Houston burned through its bullpen while winning the opening two games of the series with four different relievers — Tayler Scott, Rafael Montero, Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly — working both games.

The left-handed Valdez met the challenge by facing the minimum through three innings and working around a two-out single by Oakland first baseman J.D. Davis in the fourth by retiring the next nine batters.

Valdez ran into a spot of two-out trouble in the seventh. Shea Langeliers reached on a bad-hop single that handcuffed second baseman Jose Altuve before Zack Gelof worked a walk. Valdez responded by inducing his 11th and final groundball out, retiring Tyler Nevin to end the threat.

Valdez allowed two hits and two walks while posting eight strikeouts. He threw 97 pitches, 59 for strikes. He also set the table for Houston to use only one reliever, right-hander Seth Martinez, who covered the final two frames by inducing a pair of inning-ending double plays for his first save.

Altuve and Kyle Tucker combined to get the Astros on the board in the bottom of the first inning, with Altuve dumping a leadoff single into center field before Tucker followed with a hustle double that caused a throwing error from Gelof at second which allowed Altuve to score on the play.

Alex Bregman added a sacrifice fly later in the first off Oakland right-hander Aaron Brooks (0-1) that doubled the lead to 2-0. With one out in the fourth, Mauricio Dubon drilled a sacrifice fly to center that scored Jeremy Pena and stretched the lead to 3-0.

Brooks, making his first appearance in the majors in just over two years and his first start since Sept. 13, 2019, pitched effectively despite that layoff. He allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts. He was seemingly undeterred by traffic, working around a one-out walk to Tucker in the fifth before inducing a double-play grounder from Yainer Diaz after surrendering a leadoff single to Pena in the sixth.

The Astros recorded two hits in the first, second and fourth innings yet failed to notch a run-scoring hit in any of those frames. Houston went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position against the 34-year-old Brooks, who went 1-6 with a 4.57 ERA over eight starts with Triple-A Las Vegas.