HOUSTON (AP) — Houston catcher Martín Maldonado wasn’t sure what to expect from Framber Valdez in Sunday’s start after what he called a “crazy” warmup in the bullpen.
“His warmup wasn’t normal for him,” Maldonado said. “He was doing some stuff where … (I) was like, ‘What is that?’”
Turns out he had nothing to worry about.
Valdez pitched a four-hitter to lead the Astros to a 2-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics to complete a three-game sweep.
“He was masterful,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said.
Valdez (4-4) struck out seven without a walk, twirling a gem to bounce back after allowing seven hits and four runs in a season-low four innings in his last start. It’s his second complete game shutout, the fifth complete game of his career and first since Sept. 12 at Detroit.
He gave up a double to the speedy Esteury Ruiz with two outs in the sixth before retiring the next seven batters before Nick Allen singled to start the ninth. But he sat down the next three batters to close it out.
“That’s just Framber being Framber, pitching deep into the game,” Maldonado said. “He’s a guy that finds a way to get it done.”
It’s the third time Oakland has been shut out in the last 10 games and seventh time overall this season.
“Vintage Framber,” Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said. “A lot of ground balls. His sinker played today. It was down in the zone. The breaking ball off that lane is tough to pick up. We battled, we just couldn’t get to him.”
The victory extends Houston’s season-long winning streak to seven games, which is the longest active streak in the majors.
Baker thought Valdez’s big game might have meant more to him after he struggled in his previous start, but the left-hander said he wasn’t thinking about that.
“I’m a positive person,” he said in Spanish through a translator. “I try to go out there every single outing and just look at it almost like my debut, like this is my first time pitching. I really don’t think too much of the past and just try to go out there and work hard to try to get a good outing.”
Jose Altuve hit an RBI single in the fifth inning in his third game back after sitting out all season after breaking his right thumb in the World Baseball Classic. Yordan Alvarez scored on a wild pitch that made it 2-0 in the sixth.
Ruiz had Oakland’s only extra-base hit and added to his MLB lead by stealing his 24th base this season as the Athletics lost their fourth straight.
The Athletics are an MLB-worst 10-38, which is the worst record in franchise history after 48 game, and are on pace to finish 34-128.
James Kaprielian (0-4) allowed three hits and a run — both season lows — with four walks in five innings to remain winless this season.
“I thought Kap did a great job,” Kotsay said. “He gave us five innings. Overall, I think the stuff was good. The slider had some depth today. He got some punchouts. A few walks mixed in, but he hadn’t pitched in eight days.”
Kaprielian had walked four batters but hadn’t allowed a hit until Jake Meyers singled on a grounder to third to start the fifth. There was one out in the inning when Martín Maldonado singled to left field.
Altuve then laced a single to right field to score Meyers and put the Astros up 1-0. Ramon Laureano made a nice throw on the play to get Maldonado out at second before Kaprielian retired Alex Bregman to end the inning.
Ruiz doubled on a line drive to shallow left field with two outs in the sixth inning. He was initially called out at second, but the Athletics challenged the call, and it was overturned.
He stole third base but was left stranded when Valdez struck out Brett Rooker.
Alvarez doubled to start Houston’s sixth before José Abreu walked. Kyle Tucker grounded into a force out that left Abreu out at second and sent Alvarez to third.
Second baseman Jordan Diaz robbed Jeremy Peña of a hit with a leaping catch before Tucker stole second base. Sam Moll then bounced a breaking ball in the dirt for a wild pitch and Alvarez slid home just ahead of the tag to make it 2-0.
Maldonado doubled in the seventh before Altuve walked. Sam Long relieved Lucas Erceg with one out and walked Alvarez to load the bases. But Abreu grounded into a doubled play to end the inning.
Athletics: OF Seth Brown (left oblique) is scheduled to join the team in Seattle on Monday where it will decide if he’s ready to return. Brown, who was injured April 8, went 5 for 13 in four rehabilitation games in the minors. … LHP Ken Waldichuk was progressing Sunday after leaving Friday’s start in the sixth inning with a mild left calf strain. Kotsay said he’s hopeful that he can make his next start.
HOMER STREAK ENDS
The Athletics didn’t allow a homer Sunday to snap a franchise-record streak of 23 straight games where their opponent hit at least one home run.
Athletics: Left-hander Kyle Muller (1-3, 7.71 ERA) starts for Oakland against RHP Luis Castillo (2-2, 3.31) in the opener of a three-game series against the Mariners on Monday night.
Astros: Houston RHP Cristian Javier (4-1, 3.25) opposes Corbin Burnes (4-3, 3.48) Monday night when the Astros open a three-game series at Milwaukee.
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