HOUSTON — Framber Valdez overcame his defensive miscue and twirled seven strong innings, Alex Bregman socked a three-run home run and the Houston Astros fended off the New York Yankees 3-2 on Thursday in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
The Astros will take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series to the Bronx for Game 3 on Saturday.
Valdez (1-0) allowed two unearned runs on four hits and no walks while recording nine strikeouts. He produced a season-high 25 swings and misses. Valdez committed two errors on the same play in the fourth inning, helping the Yankees slice a 3-0 deficit to 3-2, but he was almost flawless in his final three frames.
Bregman staked Houston to the lead with his 360-foot blast to left field off Yankees starter Luis Severino (0-1) in the third, plating Martin Maldonado and Yordan Alvarez. Bregman recorded his 14th career postseason home run, the most in major league history for a third baseman.
The top of the first unfolded in foreboding fashion for Valdez, who, despite retiring the side in order, surrendered an average exit velocity of 106.8 mph while recording two groundball outs and a deep flyout to center off the bat of Aaron Judge.
Valdez worked around a two-out double from Josh Donaldson in the second and retired the Yankees in order again in the third before his own defensive shortcomings yielded the lone blemishes on his sparkling ledger.
After allowing a leadoff single to Judge in the fourth, Valdez induced a routine comebacker from Giancarlo Stanton. However, instead of initiating a timely double play and likely maintaining his three-run lead, Valdez stumbled fielding the grounder and then complicated matters by throwing wildly to first base, enabling Judge and Stanton to advance into scoring position with no outs.
The Yankees sliced the deficit to one run without the ball leaving the infield. Judge scored on an RBI groundout from Anthony Rizzo before Gleyber Torres plated Stanton with an infield single to short. Visibly perturbed by his gaffe, Valdez hunkered down and dominated the rest of the way.
Valdez struck out Donaldson and Kyle Higashioka to close the fourth inning. He retired Judge on a fly ball to left after Bader reached on a two-out single in the fifth. Bader was the last batter to reach against Valdez, who struck out the side, all swinging, in the seventh to cap his outing.
As they did in Game 1, the Yankees mustered a threat in the top of the eighth.
Astros reliever Bryan Abreu issued a one-out walk to Bader before Judge launched a fly ball to right that Kyle Tucker corralled while bounding into the wall.
Abreu, with Bader at second after he tagged on the Judge flyout, fell behind 3-0 to Stanton before rallying and ending that confrontation with a pair of blistering fastballs. Stanton swung through a 99 mph heater to run the count full before Abreu dotted the outside corner at 98.8 mph to record a called third strike.
Astros closer Ryan Pressly recorded his second save of the series by striking out the three in the ninth. Donaldson walked with two outs before pinch hitter Matt Carpenter fanned to end the game.
–MoiseKapenda Bower, Field Level Media