Framber Valdez returns to the site of one the biggest wins of his young pitching career on Sunday afternoon when the Houston Astros face the Minnesota Twins in the rubber game of their three-game series in Minneapolis.
Valdez (2-0, 1.47 ERA) was the winning pitcher in Game 1 of the 2020 American League Wild Card Series on Sept. 29 at Target Field when he replaced starter Zack Greinke and threw five innings of shutout relief in a 4-1 victory. The left-hander allowed just two hits and walked two while striking out five.
Valdez is 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA in four career regular-season performances (one start) against Minnesota.
The Twins, who are coming off a 5-2 victory on Saturday night, will counter with right-hander Michael Pineda (3-3, 3.46). Pineda is 3-4 with a 5.06 ERA in nine career starts against the Astros.
Minnesota bounced back from a 6-4 loss on Friday night to even the series behind the standout pitching of Jose Berrios and the continued hot hitting of second baseman Jorge Polanco.
Berrios held the Astros to just three singles over the first six innings and yielded just five hits and two runs — back-to-back solo homers by Kyle Tucker and Romel Garcia — over seven innings. He walked one and struck out eight.
“That’s one of the best lineups in baseball,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He attacked them. He got them out in the zone. You have to because they kind of force you to do that. You might get them to expand a little bit here and there, but you’re going to have to beat them in the zone, and he did that.”
Baldelli said he was impressed with Berrios’ command.
“His stuff was good, but he was putting the ball, I think, where he wanted to the whole night,” Baldelli said. “He looked very, very comfortable with what he was able to do, and again, we beat a really good team and good lineup because of his effort.”
“We were rolling,” added catcher Ben Rortvedt, who doubled and scored on Polanco’s homer. “It was a lot of fun. I don’t think I got shook off a lot. He had a lot of confidence in me, and I love that. He threw everything with conviction.”
Polanco went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs. He has 14 hits and four homers in June.
“Polo is really, really getting it done for us,” Baldelli said. “The at-bats are consistently good.”
The win snapped an impressive five-start winning streak by Houston starter Luis Garcia. Garcia, who was 5-0 with a 1.86 ERA in his five previous starts, allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits over 4 1/3 innings.
“He couldn’t get his secondary pitches over,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “He was having trouble locating his breaking ball. A lot of them were in the dirt. His changeup wasn’t as effective. After he bounced a couple of those breaking balls to Polanco, he centered one down the heart of the plate and he deposited it in the seats.”
Sunday’s contest will be final contest of a nine-game road trip for the Astros that began with three outings with the Blue Jays in Buffalo, N.Y., and three games at Boston. Houston is 5-3 on the trip heading into the finale.
–Field Level Media