Houston is a win away from advancing to ALCS

Springer, Valdez lift Astros to ALDS Game 2 win, lead series 2-0

Astros George Springer and Carlos Correa celebrating
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

George Springer celebrates one of two home runs in ALDS Game 2

After doubling up the A's 10-5 in Game 1 to start the series 1-0, the Astros returned to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday afternoon to try and take a commanding 2-0 lead by staying undefeated in the postseason. Here are the highlights from ALDS Game 2:

Final Score: Astros 5, A's 2.

Series: HOU leads 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez.

Losing Pitcher: Sean Manaea.

The balls keep flying out of Dodger Stadium

The baseball continued to fly out of Dodger Stadium surprisingly well in ALDS Game 2, as found out by George Springer, who followed a ball off the bat of Khris Davis over the center-field wall in the bottom of the second to give Oakland a 1-0 lead. Luckily for the Astros, they were able to take advantage themselves, as Springer would launch one of his own, a two-run dinger with two outs in the top of the third to give Houston their first lead of the day at 2-1.

Michael Brantley led the top of the fourth off with a double, moved to third on a one-out Kyle Tucker single, then scored on an RBI-groundout by Carlos Correa. That made it a two-run game at 3-2, though Chad Pinder would cut it back to one run with a solo homer in the bottom of the inning.

Springer homers again while Valdez impresses again

In the top of the fifth, Martin Maldonado would knock Sean Manaea out of the game with a one-out solo homer to make it a two-run game again at 4-2. Oakland would bring in Yusmeiro Petit, who Springer would meet with his second home run of the game on the at-bat's first pitch, pushing the lead to 5-2.

Meanwhile, Framber Valdez was again proving himself to be the best starter the Astros have going right now. Besides the two solo home runs, he limited the A's to just three other hits while walking only one batter over seven impressive innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO, 2 HR, 103 P.

Houston's in the driver's seat

That left six outs for Houston's bullpen to cover and hold on to the three-run lead. After two perfect innings in Game 1, Enoli Paredes would make it back-to-back days on the mound in relief and retire Oakland 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth.

In the bottom of the ninth, still 5-2, Ryan Pressly came in for the chance at another save against the top of Oakland's lineup. After a shaky start to the inning, Pressly would erase a leadoff single, finishing off the win which put the Astros ahead 2-0 in the best-of-five ALDS.

Up Next: ALDS Game 3 will start a bit earlier on Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 2:35 PM Central. The Astros will play as the home team, while the A's will switch to batting first as visitors. Neither team has announced their starters for Games 3 or beyond.

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The Astros host the Orioles on Friday night. Composite Getty Image.

Say it with me: The Astros aren’t dead yet. The Astros aren’t dead yet. The Astros aren’t dead yet! The odds favor them missing the postseason for the first time since 2016, but they definitely aren’t dead yet. Too much season left.

The Astros sure hope they hit their season standings rock bottom in falling 10 games back of Seattle in the American League West Tuesday. Two wins over the hapless White Sox later, coupled with two Mariner losses in Cleveland, and the deficit is eight going into the weekend. The Astros’ real race may be for a Wild Card. On that front they sit six games behind Minnesota, six and a half back of Kansas City. The Twins and Royals currently hold the second and third Wild Card slots. The Astros also trail Boston by five games.

The Astros’ season needs some positive jolts if it is not to slip away. A shot at one comes Friday night with pitcher Jake Bloss called up from Double-A Corpus Christi for his Major League debut. He is merely tasked with facing the best offense in the AL as the Baltimore Orioles visit Minute Maid Park this weekend. Bloss was the Astros’ third round draft pick last summer. He turns 23 on Sunday. He started well this season at High-A Asheville earning the move up to AA. As a Hook, Bloss was spectacular in posting a 1.61 earned run average over eight starts with a scant 19 hits allowed over 44 2/3 innings. Bloss gets the fast big league call out of necessity (with Justin Verlander on the injured list), because he excelled, and because the Astros have no significant pitching prospect knocking at the door from Triple-A Sugar Land. Not one guy in the Space Cowboys’ rotation has given up fewer hits than he has thrown innings. The Pacific Coast League is a hitters’ league, but that is a damning stat.

Blame game

With the Astros’ season a big fail to this point, it is the nature of the beast for some to call for the head(s) of Manager Joe Espada and/or General Manager Dana Brown. Espada has certainly not distinguished himself as some brilliant rookie skipper, but blaming numerous lackluster player performances on him is classic scapegoating. Brown is in his second season and does have a couple of stains on his early record, but the foremost task Brown was charged with at hire was rejuvenating the Astros’ weak farm system. It takes two or three draft classes to infuse some depth of young talent. If the Astros are sellers as the trade deadline approaches, selling is another avenue through which Brown tries to add good prospects.

Brown picked Bloss. Brown’s first first round pick was shortstop Brice Matthews who also recently earned promotion to Corpus Christi. If Jeremy Pena doesn’t show improvement, and if Matthews is fulfilling his potential, he could be challenging for the shortstop job by the end of next season. 2023 second round pick, pitcher Alonzo Tredwell, has been bad so far with the Low-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers.

Midsummer Classic

The first phase of All-Star balloting ends Thursday at 11AM Central Time. The Astros’ representation on the American League team is simple: three definites and one maybe. Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez all rightfully are poised to be elected starters. Altuve has to hold off the Rangers’ Marcus Semien, but at minimum will be added as a reserve. For Altuve it will be his ninth All-Star team, adding on to his franchise record after not making the team last year because he missed the first month and a half of the season with a broken thumb.

Tucker and Alvarez will both become three-time All-Stars. Neither has been voted a starter before. Even with the time he’s missing on the injured list, Tucker belongs in the outfield with the Yankees’ superstar combo of Aaron Judge and Juan Soto. Alvarez’s opportunity to win the vote at designated hitter opened up when Shohei Ohtani switched leagues in signing with the Dodgers.

Last year the Texas Rangers dominated the AL lineup with five starters. It was not an omen that they would go on to win the World Series. This year Arlington hosts the game at Globe Life Field, but Semien is the only Ranger anywhere close to the lead in the fan voting.

As for the one Astro All-Star maybe, that is Ronel Blanco. The 30-year-old has come out of nowhere to be the Astros’ ace, but he is not a lock. I don’t think his foreign substance suspension hurts much other than it factors into Blanco having pitched fewer innings than almost all other candidates. It’s a matter of math. A maximum of nine starting pitchers make the squad, there may only be eight taken. It’s not hard to name nine guys who could get the nod over Blanco, especially when you factor in that every team must be represented. Tyler Anderson is the most deserving Angel. Erick Fedde or Garret Crochet is the most deserving White Sox (Sock?). The Seattle Mariners have no deserving everyday player, though some might argue Cal Raleigh if three catchers are taken. The M’s are dominating the AL West on the back of stellar starting pitching. It’s hard to see no Mariner starter getting picked, although only Logan Gilbert at 2.93 has an earned run average within 0.50 of Blanco’s 2.43. Blanco has three more starts to strengthen his case before the staff is named July 7.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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