Astros burst ahead in 1st inning against Phillies, hold on to even World Series
Framber Valdez pitches shutout into the 7th inning as Houston wins 5-2
Framber Valdez swapped his glove and his spikes mid-game. He repeatedly rubbed his hands.
By the time he strode off the mound to a standing ovation and handed the Houston Astros' bullpen a seventh-inning lead, it was clear he had thrown a curve at the Philadelphia Phillies.
"This was a really good game for the fans, a really good game for our team and also for me," he said through a translator after pitching the Astros over the Phillies 5-2 Saturday night to tie the World Series at one game apiece. "I've just been playing really inspired."
"His curveball was on tonight," Phillies star Bryce Harper said after going 0 for 4. "It was big, sharp."
Houston became the first team to open a Series game with three straight extra-base hits, and Valdez pitched shutout ball into the seventh, rebounding from a pair of poor outings against Atlanta last year that had left him with a 19.29 Series ERA.
Triple double. <a href="https://t.co/PPzvZmMsUA">pic.twitter.com/PPzvZmMsUA</a>—@astros
He threw 42 curveballs among 104 pitches and got six of nine strikeouts with that pitch, three of them looking. He allowed four hits and one run in 6 2/3 innings, giving up a leadoff double in the seventh to Nick Castellanos, who scored on Jean Segura's sacrifice fly off Rafael Montero.
Valdez downplays hand-rubbing
Valdez said his hand-rubbing was inconsequential.
"Nobody should think of it as anything like in the wrong way. I do it out in the open," he said. "It's all tendencies I do. I do it throughout the game, maybe distract the hitter a little bit from what I'm doing, Like maybe look at me, rubbing different things, and nothing about the pitch that I'm going to throw. I've been doing it all season."
Valdez started the game with a tan glove and spikes with orange and yellow trim, then swapped ahead of the second inning for a dark glove and dark cleats with a white stripe.
"Normally have different spikes when I warm up and the ones that I go into the game. Today I decided to start the game with the ones I warmed up in," he said. "I had a long inning there and I was like, You know what, I'm going to change everything. I'm going to change my glove, my belt, my cleats. And those are just things that us Dominicans do, just some tendencies here and there."
Phillies manager Rob Thomson didn't take issue with Valdez rubbing his palm — social media was abuzz, wondering if there was some banned sticky substance.
"The umpires check these guys after almost every inning and if there's something going on MLB will take care of it," Thomson said. "We saw it the last time he started, too."
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Jose Altuve, Jeremy Pena and Yordan Alvarez all doubled as Houston took a two-run lead four pitches in against Zack Wheeler. Shortstop Edmundo Sosa's throwing error allowed another run in the first.
Bregman added a two-run homer in the fifth when Wheeler left a slider over the middle of the plate, Bregman's sixth career Series homer.
With the Phillies trailing by four runs, Kyle Schwarber hit a drive deep down the right-field line with a man on in the eighth against Montero that was originally ruled a two-run homer by right field line umpire James Hoye.
First base umpire Tripp Gibson at first signaled for umps to conference and the call was reversed on a crew chief review when it was determined the ball was just to the foul side of the pole.
Schwarber, who led the NL with 46 home runs this season and added three more in the playoffs, hit the next pitch 353 feet to right, where it was caught by Kyle Tucker just in front of the wall.
Series shifts to Philadelphia
Following the split in Houston, the Series resumes Monday night when Citizens Bank Park hosts the Series for the first time since 2009.
Of 61 previous Series tied 1-1, the Game 2 winner went on to the title 31 times — but just four of the last 14.
Altuve, who broke out of a 4-for-37 postseason slump with three hits, lined a sinker into left on Wheeler's first pitch and Pena drove a curveball into the left-field corner on the second for a 1-0 lead. Alvarez fouled off a pitch and drove a slider high off the 19-foot wall in left.
Wheeler gave up five runs — four earned — six hits and three walks in five innings, a day after Aaron Nola struggled.
"I think everybody deserves a poor start every once in a while," Thomson said. "Those guys have been so good for us for so long, and I fully expect them to come back and be ready to go and pitch well for us."
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