A couple of nights ago, the Houston Astros were down 2-1 against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, and their backs were against the wall.
For three games, there was apparently no way for Houston’s pitchers to stop the Red Sox offense, a unit that scored 25 runs in those three contests.
But thankfully for Astros fans, the pitching corps finally showed up for the final two games at Fenway Park.
On Tuesday, the bullpen bailed out a struggling Zack Greinke, who could only complete 1.1 innings in which he walked three and allowed two runs.
Brooks Raley, Cristian Javier, Phil Maton, Kendall Graveman, and Ryan Pressly combined to shutout the Red Sox for 7.2 frames in Game 4 to tie the series, on the strength of a breakthrough offensive performance in the late innings.
A Masterful Performance By Framber Valdez
The most impressive pitching performance, however, came courtesy of Astros left-hander Framber Valdez.
Valdez had been mediocre in Game 1, but the Astros won that night anyway.
In his latest outing he was far from mediocre: he was an absolute stud.
On Wednesday, Valdez gave Houston everything they needed and more: he stayed on the mound for eight superb innings in which he allowed three hits (one a solo homer) and a single walk, while striking out five.
Framber Valdez had a masterful outing today. 8 innings, 1 run. Exactly what the team needed.
— 𝕁𝕒𝕜𝕠𝕓 🌟 (@jakedc6) October 21, 2021
He used his sinker and curveball effectively and was able to make quick work of the Red Sox thanks to 13 groundouts against only two flyouts.
Cora on Framber: “I think their guy was amazing. He was throwing harder than usual. The ball was moving. We didn't hit the ball hard at all. I think we had two fly balls, if I'm not mistaken, and a home run, right? Credit to him. His sinker was unreal tonight. Unreal.”
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) October 21, 2021
As far as contact allowed goes, grounders are ideal for pitchers because batters inflict less damage on them than if they hit liners and fly balls.
When it comes to getting batters to hit the ball into the ground, there is no one in the league like Valdez.
He out-dueled Red Sox ace Chris Sale, who surrendered four runs (two earned) in 5.1 innings.
Thanks to Valdez’s stellar performance on the mound, the Astros bullpen will get to Game 6 well-rested, as only Ryne Stanek had to pitch an inning to complete the win.
It was a nice night of rest for the unit after Tuesday’s heavy workload.
The Astros Will Look To End The Series In Houston
Now, after being down 2-1 and seemingly unable to find answers and retire Boston’s hot hitters, the Astros’ pitching finally rebounded in the last two games.
Kike Hernandez, the Red Sox’s hottest hitter in the postseason, has only one hit in the last two contests, a span covering nine plate appearances.
Now, the Astros, who looked like the better team of the two during the regular season, are in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the series.
They will play in Minute Maid Park and will have two opportunities to finish off the Red Sox at home, in Games 6 and 7 (if it’s necessary).
The Astros are an extremely tough team to beat in Houston.
Not only does their pitching appear to have answered the call in the last two games, but their trademark offense, the best and most potent in baseball, is also back.
After being held to three meager runs in Game 3, Houston scored nine runs each in Games 4 and 5.
They look confident and poised to finish the series at home.