Astros ambush Phillies in Game 2, tie up series behind sterling start from Framber Valdez

How would the Houston Astros respond after making their first loss in the playoffs? Quick, that’s it. They hit three doubles and scored two runs in the first four innings they saw off Philadelphia Phillies star Zack Wheeler, striking out a key starter to take control of World Series Game 2. Behind Framber Valdez steady, the Astros held on from there, winning 5 -2 to even the series at 1-1.

The Astros ended up scoring three in the first, then added two more on Alex Bregman’s homer in the fifth. Wheeler, who had been amazing in October up until Saturday night, weathered the storm to go five innings.

But unlike Game 1, the Phillies’ comeback was not forthcoming. Astros manager Dusty Baker trusted his starter again, but this time it paid off. Valdez interfered with the Phillies’ offense, holding them to one run and taking it to the bullpen.

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The closest the Phillies got to threatening the Astros was when Kyle Schwarber hit two separate balls that came within inches of making it a two-run game in the eighth inning. The leadoff slugger ripped two deep shots off reliever Rafael Montero – one was ruled a homer at first but called a foul ball on replay, the next landed in the right fielder’s glove Kyle Tucker steps in front of the wall.

The Astros offense then put two men on for Bryce Harper, but he grounded out to right field to end the inning.

The series heads to a decidedly revamped Philadelphia for Game 3 on Monday night.

Framber Valdez provides quality, as usual

The 28-year-old lefty, who earlier this season set an MLB record for consecutive quality starts, gave Houston exactly the type of game it needed. Completely in control throughout, Valdez went 6 1/3 innings and allowed just one run. Especially in the early innings, he hindered the Phillies. In all, he gave up just four hits, striking out nine and keeping the ball on the ground. Of the five hardest balls he faced, four were grounders and two turned into double plays.

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Sometimes overlooked by Verlander ahead of him in the Astros rotation, Valdez has been a surprising starter. The jewel of the Astros’ development system, only 10 qualified starters have a better ERA than him over the past two seasons.

Jose Altuve warms up with 3 hits

Altuve, the little linchpin of the Astros, has been ice cold at the plate in the playoffs. He went 4-for-37 in Game 2 in the postseason. Then, on Saturday night, he struck out three and looked more like his usual threat.

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His ambush of Wheeler in the first inning started the early Astros.

He added two singles later, an encouraging sign as Houston looked ahead in the series.

The Astros catcher was using an illegal bat

Don’t worry, but the Astros hitter may have violated the rules. According to a report by Tom Verducci on the Fox broadcast, Astros catcher Martin Maldonado was notified by MLB that the bat he used in Game 1 was illegal. The former catcher reportedly used a bat that was passed down by the retiring legend Albert Pujols, but Pujols had been known to use bat specifications that were no longer allowed.

Maldonado used another at-bat in Game 2.

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