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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Astros pitcher faces the minimum in no-hitter against Cleveland

Framber Valdez of the Houston Astros needed only 93 pitches to throw a nohitter against the Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday.

By Evan Easterling

Framber Valdez of the Houston Astros threw the second solo no-hitter of the season on Tuesday night, shutting down the Cleveland Guardians in a 2-0 win.

Valdez needed only 93 pitches to carve through the Cleveland lineup, striking out seven. He faced the minimum 27 batters because the Astros turned a double play after the lone base runner he allowed, a walk to Oscar González to lead off the top of the fifth inning. According to Baseball Reference, it was only the 34th time in Major League Baseball’s modern era in which a pitcher faced the minimum number of hitters in a nine-inning no-hitter.

Valdez’s outing follows the June perfect game by the New York Yankees’ Domingo Germán as the second no-hitter thrown by only one pitcher. There have been three no-hitters overall in 2023, including the Detroit Tigers’ combined effort against Toronto in July.

In a Houston franchise with a storied pitching history — Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard, Gerrit Cole and the Cy Young Award winners Mike Scott, Roger Clemens and Justin Verlander — Valdez threw the 16th Astros no-hitter. He stands alone, however, as the only left-hander within that group. He completed the performance by inducing a soft lineout from Guardians catcher Cam Gallagher to shortstop Jeremy Peña.

Valdez primarily relies on his sinker and his curveball, which has one of the highest spin rates in the league. On Tuesday, Cleveland’s batters missed nearly half the time they swung at it. The Guardians fell to 53-55 but are only two games behind first-place Minnesota in the lackluster American League Central.

Valdez’s no-hitter came just hours after the passage of MLB’s trading deadline, with several teams, including the Astros, making moves to better position themselves for the stretch run. Houston on Tuesday reacquired Verlander, who had signed with the New York Mets in the offseason after winning the 2022 AL Cy Young Award with the Astros. Last week, Houston traded with the Chicago White Sox to land right-handed reliever Kendall Graveman, who helped the team reach the 2021 World Series. And late last month the slugging outfielder Yordan Alvarez and the star second baseman José Altuve returned from the injured list.

The Astros have become regulars in the AL Championship Series and are hoping to make a third consecutive World Series appearance, but first they have to chase down the Texas Rangers in the AL West. Houston trails by only a half game, but Texas bolstered its roster before the deadline, too, making a deal with the Mets for the right-handed starter Max Scherzer and shoring up its catching depth by adding Austin Hedges.

Valdez, a 29-year-old Dominican, has factored heavily into Houston’s success over the last three seasons. Entering Tuesday, he had the 10th-best ERA among qualified starters from 2021-23 and the 14th-most wins above replacement, according to Fangraphs. He earned his second career All-Star selection last month.

After struggling in the 2021 World Series, which Houston lost to Atlanta, he dominated in the 2022 postseason. He pitched to a 1.44 ERA, and the Astros won all four of his starts, including their World Series-clinching victory in Game 6 over the Phillies.

Four Astros pitchers combined to no-hit Philadelphia in Game 4 of that series. Now, Valdez has one of his own.

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