With the three-time Cy Young Award winner gone to the New York Mets this season, that role shifted to Framber Valdez. And on Tuesday night, Valdez outpitched his former teammate to give the Astros a much-needed win.
Alex Bregman hit a two-run homer and Valdez threw eight strong innings as Houston snapped a five-game slide with a 4-2 win over the Mets.
“Framber was incredible today,” Bregman said. “Verlander, for five years, was incredible for us. Whenever we needed a [win] he was there and 1687322424 Framber’s been that guy for us.”
Valdez (7-5) took over as Houston’s ace this year following Verlander’s departure after winning the AL Cy Young Award last season. Valdez didn’t allow a baserunner until the sixth and held the Mets scoreless until the eighth.
“I had a lot of fun going against him,” Valdez said through a translator. “This was a very fun outing.”
The Astros led by one in the third before Bregman connected off Verlander (2-4) for the 150th home run of his career to make it 3-0.
“A bit frustrated, a 3-0 homer,” Verlander said. “I know Breggy does his homework and just sold out for a heater there. So that’s on me. Should have known a little better.”
Valdez yielded four hits and two runs with nine strikeouts to leave his ERA at 2.27, which ranks second in the majors.
“He was great,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He gave us all he had.”
Ryan Pressly pitched a scoreless ninth for his 13th save.
Verlander, who helped Houston to two World Series titles, allowed eight hits and four runs in seven innings in his first outing against his former team.
Jose Altuve drove in two runs to help the Astros end their longest losing streak of the season and bounce back after an 11-1 walloping in the series opener.
“I hope we don’t go through a streak like that the rest of the year,” Baker said. “It seemed like we hadn’t won in a month.”
Corey Julks raced to make a nifty catch in left field on a ball hit by Jeff McNeil before a sacrifice fly by Canha scored Pham to cut the lead to 4-1. Eduardo Escobar singled to send another run home before Valdez retired Brandon Nimmo for the third out.
Julks doubled to start the Houston third before a one-out single by Martín Maldonado. The Astros took a 1-0 lead when Julks scored on a sacrifice fly by Altuve.
Bregman then launched his 10th homer into the seats in left field to make it 3-0.
Julks hit an infield single with no outs in the seventh and moved to second on a groundout by Maldonado for the second out. The Astros pushed the lead to 4-0 when Altuve singled on a grounder to center field.
“The last one really bugs me,” Verlander said. “It just seems like a lot of the balls that were put in play just found a hole.”
Valdez was perfect until Canha singled on a liner to shallow right field with one out in the sixth. Valdez still faced the minimum in that inning after Escobar grounded into a double play.
Astros’ Framber Valdez outduels Justin Verlander as Houston ends skid