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Astros starter Framber Valdez aims for major

Between mid-June and early August, Houston Astros right-hander Jose Urquidy strung together a span of nine consecutive quality starts that appeared to solidify his place in the postseason rotation.

Urquidy has come back to earth of late. He surrendered six earned runs for a second successive start on Saturday and took the loss in the Astros’ 8-5 setback to the visiting Oakland Athletics in the third game of a four-game set. After lowering his overall ERA to 3.62 through Aug. 3, Urquidy has posted a 4.85 ERA and 3-3 record over seven starts since.

“He’ll be all right,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Guys go through these ups and downs in the season. I have full confidence in Urquidy. You don’t lose confidence in a guy because he’s had a couple of rough outings. That happens to everybody and I know it’s bothering him as much as anybody to not put hitters away.”

But Sunday is another day, and another quality pitcher for Houston as the Astros host the A’s again. Left-hander Framber Valdez (15-5, 2.55 ERA) has the starting assignment for Houston (95-51).

Valdez matched the major league single-season record with his 24th consecutive quality start in his previous outing on Monday, a 7-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers during which he allowed six hits and issued one walk while recording eight strikeouts in his first career shutout. Valdez has surrendered more than three earned runs in a start once this season, allowing six against the Los Angeles Angels on April 19.

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Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom set the mark in 2018.

Valdez is 1-3 with a 3.15 ERA over eight career games (six starts) against the Athletics. He is 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA in two starts, both complete games, against Oakland this season.

Rookie left-hander Ken Waldichuk (0-1, 5.40) is the scheduled starter for the Athletics in the series finale on Sunday. It will mark the fourth career start for Waldichuk, who was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas on Sept. 1.

Waldichuk did not factor into the decision of his previous start after allowing five runs on eight hits and one walk with six strikeouts over five innings in an 8-7 road loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.

Oakland acquired Waldichuk from the New York Yankees on Aug. 1. He will make his first career appearance against the Astros.

Oakland (53-93) entered Saturday a season-worst 41 games under .500 and saddled with the second-worst winning percentage in the majors (.363) ahead of only the Washington Nationals (.352). With little collective incentive inspiring the Athletics, the challenge for Oakland to maintain attentiveness down the stretch of the season is stiff.

Oakland manager Mark Kotsay has pressed his players to maintain their intensity despite the lack of success, especially those non-veterans who must use the remaining games as a showcase.

“I actually think it should be easier for them to focus because they still have a lot to prove, and they have opportunity that’s sitting in front of them for next year,” Kotsay said. “I’ve talked to them a lot about sprinting through this finish line, that there’s no easy days in front of you, that you may want to take a day off in terms of your warmup routine or in terms of your workout routine.

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“Those are still as important as going out and taking ground balls and batting practice to your success in finishing this season off.”


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