A case can be made that Houston left-hander Framber Valdez enjoyed the best season of any member of the Astros’ rotation despite the fact that he missed 49 games with a left index finger fracture.
Valdez took the loss Friday night as Houston dropped the opener of its three-game series against the visiting Oakland Athletics 8-6, allowing four runs on four hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over five-plus innings.
After the Astros celebrated their fourth American League West title in five seasons deep into the night on Thursday, team brass was reluctant to saddle Valdez with an excessive workload in what was his final start of the regular season.
“Framber was good,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We tried to take him as far as he could and not overstress him for the playoffs.”
Valdez will be a key cog for the Astros this postseason. His durability has become an asset, and it was a welcome surprise considering the uncertainty that surrounded him following the injury.
“He far exceeded our expectations,” Baker said. “We didn’t know if we were going to have him at all. He pitched well, had (134 2/3) innings, and pitched deep into ball games.”
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (6-7, 4.14 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Saturday. He allowed one run on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts over four innings in his first start following a stint on the 10-day injured list, an Astros 4-3 loss to the Athletics last Sunday.
Odorizzi has factored into a decision only twice over his last seven starts, going 1-1 with a 3.16 ERA with 28 strikeouts over 31 1/3 innings. He is 1-4 with a 3.88 ERA over nine career starts against the Athletics, with his previous start his lone appearance against Oakland this season.
Right-hander Paul Blackburn (1-3, 4.71 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Athletics on Saturday. He was selected from Triple-A Las Vegas on Aug. 18 and finished 0-1 with a 2.81 ERA over three starts in August. He went 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA last month, including a no-decision in the Athletics’ 4-3 victory over the Astros last Sunday, during which Blackburn allowed one run on three hits and one walk with one strikeout over five innings.
Blackburn is 0-1 with an 11.12 ERA in three career appearances (two starts) against the Astros.
With his two-run home run off Valdez in the sixth inning, Oakland first baseman Matt Olson extended his single-season career-high total to 39. Of greater statistical significance is the fact that Olson, a left-handed hitter, bashed his 22nd homer this season against a southpaw.
Olson passed Barry Bonds (2002) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1996, ’98) for the most home runs by a left-handed hitter against left-handed pitching in the expansion era.
“The most impressive thing is he’s had more home runs against left-handed pitching than any left-hander in history,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin said of Olson. “This was a guy that was at one time getting platooned and not facing left-handed pitching.
“That’s quite a feather in your cap. The two guys he passed are legends.”
–Field Level Media