From a macro perspective, the Houston Astros’ 9-2 road victory Wednesday over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday represented some much-needed success in advance of a three-game home set against the Chicago White Sox that starts Friday.
At the granular level, the Astros capped a brief road swing through Arlington, Texas, by setting a distinct record in becoming the first team in history to record two immaculate innings in the same game.
Right-handers Luis Garcia and Phil Maton struck out the same three Texas batters — Nathaniel Lowe, Ezequiel Duran and Brad Miller — on just nine pitches in the second and seventh innings.
When asked if he’d previously seen an immaculate inning, Astros manager Dusty Baker — who turned 73 Wednesday and has 44 years as a player and manager — was quick to reply.
“None,” Baker said. “I was probably part of one of them somewhere along the line.
“I heard everybody screaming and hollering and I was like, ‘What are they talking about?’ No one was happier than our pitching coach (Josh) Miller. It was a good day for us.”
Left-hander Framber Valdez (6-3, 2.64 ERA) will start the series opener for the Astros. He extended his string of consecutive quality starts to nine despite taking the loss against the Miami Marlins on Saturday, when he allowed four runs (two earned) on four hits over six innings.
Valdez is 5-2 with a 2.21 ERA, .203 opponent average and a .558 opponents’ OPS over the past nine games, with 49 strikeouts against 18 walks in 61 innings.
Valdez is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA over three career appearances (two starts) against the White Sox. He did not factor into the decision in the Astros’ 9-4 win over Chicago in Game 2 of the American League Division Series last postseason after allowing four runs on seven hits over 4 1/3 innings.
Right-hander Lucas Giolito (4-2, 3.88 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the White Sox. He did not factor into the decision in his last start after allowing four runs on six hits in five innings of an 11-9 loss to the Rangers on Saturday.
Giolito has allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight of his 10 starts, two or fewer in six and one or fewer in four. He is 1-1 with a 6.89 ERA over his last three starts after recording three consecutive winning decisions.
Giolito is 2-3 with a 3.71 ERA in five career starts against Houston with 24 strikeouts and a .186 opponent’s average in 34 innings. He started Game 2 of the ALDS at Houston last postseason and allowed four earned runs on three hits and five walks over 4 1/3 innings.
“It was on a bigger stage, and it left a bad taste in my mouth,” Giolito said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “I want to go out and perform my best, especially after my last three starts. There is a lot of motivation.”
The White Sox completed a three-game series sweep of the Detroit Tigers in resounding fashion Wednesday with a 13-0 victory. They outscored Detroit 27-6 in the series, their first three-game sweep since May 6-8 on the road against the Boston Red Sox.
Right-hander Vince Velasquez returned from the 15-day injured list but recorded only eight outs, leaving an already overworked bullpen to cover the final 6 1/3 innings. Up stepped Davis Martin and Jose Ruiz, with Martin earning his first career win after allowing three hits over 5 1/3 innings.
White Sox relievers have covered at least four innings in six consecutive games.
–Field Level Media