Astros extends winning streak to 11 games

Astros extends winning streak to 11 games

WASHINGTON — Another dominant display from the pitching team and a first-pitch homer from Jose Altuve were all the Astros needed to move on Friday night.

Framber Valdez held the Nationals on one run in 7 2/3 innings, and the Astros rushed Washington starter Josiah Gray for five runs in the first inning, including homer from Altuve and Yuli Gurriel, to extend their winning streak to 11 games with a extend 6-1 win at Nationals Park.

“They attacked early and we haven’t attacked anyone that early in a long time,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker, who scored with his 2,009. victory in his career passed Leo Durocher for the sole 10th place overall in the winning list. “It feels good to get a lead, Framber to get a lead. That was a first inning.”

The Astros, winners of 15 of their last 17 games, can tie a club record 12 straight wins with a win on Saturday night. The Astros’ entire pitching team conceded 10 earned runs in 99 innings (0.91 ERA) during the club’s 11-game streak.

“Look at the stats, we’re still down offensively in the entire league, but we’re up pitching,” Baker said. “Pitching will carry you long until your offensive gets going.”

Here’s a closer look at how the Astros earned their 11th straight win:

Valdez is seventh
Valdez pitched 105 pitches — the most by an Astros pitcher this year — but couldn’t quite finish eight innings in what would have been a team-season high. He has a 2.08 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in his last four starts, each of which has been a quality start by definition.

“Framber was really good,” Baker said. “He started shakily but it’s a good thing we took an early lead and he got us deep into the game. We’re trying to get him through the eighth so I don’t have to use up too much of my bullpen. When you start pitching like this, your bullpen stays relatively fresh. That’s relatively important in this series of games.”

By the time Valdez took the mound, he had a five-run lead, which helped him feel comfortable. He gave up a pair of one-out singles in the first before sending down 15 of the next 18 batters to put him in the seventh. Houston starters have a 0.95 ERA during the winning streak.

“Obviously the rotation is doing a really good job,” Valdez said. “We all support each other and give each other advice and see if someone does something wrong someone else can help correct it. It feels great that everyone is serving well.”

Gurriel hits the first homer of the season
It’s been a slow start to the season for the reigning American League batting champion, but Gurriel hit his first homer of the season in the first inning and added a sharp single in the ninth. The homer was his first since Oct. 2, 2021 — a span of 102 at-bats.

“We were all so happy for Yuli because he met his first,” Baker said. “The first seems to be the hardest to get. Hopefully it starts rolling from there.”

Gurriel said hitting coach Alex Cintron helped him adjust his stance in the box, which helped him see the ball better.

“I’ve been working hard all season and making adjustments to try and get the results we want,” Gurriel said. “Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, but today is an example [that] the work pays off.”

Gurriel, who won an AL Gold Glove last year, also showed his defensive skills as he started and finished a 3-4-3 doubles game in sixth place. What made the game notable was that instead of looking at the ball, Gurriel looked down at the first base bag when catching the ball.

“It’s just a game I practice a lot,” he said with a smile. “I just walked in and found the bag. I knew I had the ball.”

Alvarez launches another long blast
Alvarez’s 438-foot home run to straightway midfield in the third was his 11th of the season and his third in the last two games. He briefly tied Yankees slugger Aaron Judge for the AL lead, but Judge hit his 12th place later on Friday. Could he be in the early stages of a home race with Judge?

“Honestly, that’s something I don’t pay too much attention to,” Alvarez said. “A lot of people have approached me about it, but right now my focus is on doing a good job and going out and playing every day.”

The 11 homers in 27 games is the fastest Alvarez to 11 homers in a season, surpassing his 2019 AL rookie of the year campaign when he had 11 homers in 30 games.

“Right now I’m focused on hitting the ball like I’ve always done and luckily things are going well,” Alvarez said.

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