Houston locks up the series

Astros back up another solid Valdez start to secure series win over Rangers

Framber Valdez went seven innings of two-run baseball on Saturday night against the Rangers. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With the comeback win in the opener of this series to grab their third-straight win and sixth in their last eight, the Astros entered Saturday's game looking to lock up the series and hopefully continue to distance themselves atop the division. Thanks to a more steady dose of offense, they would get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 5, Rangers 2

Astros' Record: 77-52, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Kolby Allard (3-11)

Houston's full-strength lineup looks strong

Houston, who had all of their runs come in one inning the night prior, spread their offense around throughout Saturday's middle game. They put up three runs in the top of the second, getting a leadoff solo homer by Yordan Alvarez to start the scoring, then later in the frame, a two-RBI single by Martin Maldonado to go in front 3-0.

Carlos Correa provided another run in the top of the third, crushing a one-out solo shot 436 feet to extend the lead to 4-0. After the Rangers scored to get on the board in the bottom of the fourth, Houston got that run back in the top of the sixth, getting a leadoff ground-rule double by Kyle Tucker, who would later score on an RBI single by Jose Altuve, making it 5-1.

Valdez has another quality outing

The run support was welcomed by Framber Valdez, who gave his team another impressive start on the mound. He allowed just one baserunner over the first three innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the third, which he erased to keep Texas scoreless to that point. He dealt with some trouble in the bottom of the fourth, loading the bases with one out on a single, hit batter, and walk.

Texas would get an RBI groundout, but Valdez did well to limit the damage to one run in that inning. After rebounding with a 1-2-3 fifth, a one-out solo homer by Adolis Garcia in the bottom of the sixth cut the lead to 5-2. Valdez went on to retire the next five batters in a row, getting through seven two-run innings of work. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 85 P.

Astros secure the series

Kendall Graveman took over for Valdez in the bottom of the eighth, and despite some erratic control that resulted in two reaching base, he would get out of the inning while maintaining the three-run lead. That set up Ryan Pressly who took over in the bottom of the ninth, still ahead by three runs. Despite allowing a one-out double, he would close out the win to secure the series victory for Houston.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game series will start at 1:35 PM Central on Sunday from Arlington. Zack Greinke (11-4, 3.41 ERA) will look to get his 12th win of the season, while the Rangers are expected to give the ball to Taylor Hearn (3-4, 4.08 ERA).

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1. Davis Mills had an up-and-down day under center Friday. One play saw Mills drop back and try to get rid of the ball as Jonathan Greenard was rushing him only to have Greenard leap up and intercept Mills for what would have been an interception returned for a score.

2. A few plays later Davis Mills showcased his short memory. Mills surveyed the field, looked off the safety, and pitched a strike to Brevin Jordan over the middle, wide open, for a touchdown.

3. Davis Mills doesn’t stack bad plays. It is rare to see multiple bad plays happen in a row and Mills be the cause, or a cause, of the play not working. When he misses something, he usually makes up for it the next play.

4. It was a makeshift offensive line on Friday. Max Scharping played a lot at left guard. Charlie Heck saw some snaps at left tackle while Laremy Tunsil took a breather. Veteran lineman Cedric Ogbuehi played some at right tackle. There was plenty of work emphasized on the rushing attack Friday. The offensive line was fine, nothing special. I would say slight edge to the defense overall.

5. Rookie Kenyon Green didn’t practice. Right tackle Tytus Howard didn’t practice either. Pro Football Network is reporting Tytus Howard is out with a positive Covid test. Kenyon Green was banged up last practice, but Lovie Smith expects both back in the coming days.

6.The offensive line had its hands full with the defensive line today. Jonathan Greenard made the above-mentioned play of the practice with an interception. It felt constantly like there was some level of success from the defensive line. Not to say they dominated, but I would think the defense is happy with their day.

7. Maliek Collins has been a nice player in camp. He looks a bit quicker than last year. Collins downplayed how many “close” plays he had last year citing that everyone knows the saying “close but no cigar.” I asked him if he expected a lot of cigars this year. He chuckled and said yes. Teammate Roy Lopez gushed about what he believes Collins can be for this team and called his teammate one of the best defensive tackles in the league.

8. I almost wonder if quiet Derek Stingley days are good days. Stingley wasn’t involved in a lot of plays, but I know Davis Mills saw him on Friday. Mills dropped back on one play and made a read to his left seeing Chris Moore. Stingley darted from coverage towards Moore causing Mills to move off Moore and head to Nico Collins for a score. Yes, the defense allowed a touchdown, but Stingley did his job.

9. Rookie safety Jalen Pitre is a “starting” safety for the team according to Lovie Smith. Pitre had an interception, depending on who you ask, in practice. It is clear the Texans trust him and have put a lot on his plate. I would expect to see a lot of the rookie safety, good or bad, this season.

10. Lovie Smith praised the team’s depth at linebacker earlier in camp. I scoffed a little at the notion, but there seems to be a new linebacker making a play each day. Christian Kirksey had a nice stop in the run game today. Kevin Pierre-Louis, who played very little last year, has flashed. There’s some depth here, despite my skepticism.

11. Ka'imi Fairbairn doesn’t have a challenger in camp this year. I believed this offseason should have seen at the very least someone to challenge the kicker heading into his seventh year in the league. He’s been solid in camp so far, but there have been some misses. It is tough to judge distance, but the team clearly has faith in him with no challenger in sight.

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