Astros surges for 5 points 1st in 11th straight ‘W’

WASHINGTON — Another dominant outing from the pitching staff and a first-pitch homer from Jose Altuve were all the Astros needed to keep rolling Friday night.

Framber Valdez held the Nationals to one run in 7 2/3 innings, and the Astros pounced on Washington starter Josiah Gray for five runs in the first inning, including home runs from Altuve and Yuli Gurriel, to extend their run. 11-game winning streak with a 6-1 win at Nationals Park.

“They were attacking early, and we hadn’t jumped on anyone early like this in a while,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker, whose 2,009th career victory moved him past Leo Durocher for possession. exclusive 10th place on all-time management. win list. “It feels good to have a lead, to give Framber a lead. It was a first run.

The Astros, winners of 15 of their last 17 games, can tie the club record of 12 straight wins with a win on Saturday night. The Astros’ pitching team as a whole has allowed 10 earned runs in 99 innings (0.91 ERA) during the club’s 11-game streak.

“You look at the stats, we’re still down the whole league offensively, but we’re tops when it comes to shots,” Baker said. “Pitching will take you far until your attack kicks in.”

Here’s a look at how the Astros earned their 11th straight win:

Valdez takes the shutout in the seventh
Valdez threw 105 pitches — the most by an Astros pitcher this year — but couldn’t complete eight innings, which would have tied a team season record. He has a 2.08 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in his last four starts, each of which has been a quality start by definition.

“Framber was really good,” Baker said. “He started shaking, but it’s a good thing we got that early lead, and he took us deep into the game. We’re trying to get him through that eighth so I don’t have to use too much from my bullpen. When you start throwing like that, your bullpen stays relatively cool. That’s relatively important during that streak of games.

By the time Valdez took the mound, he had a five-point lead, which helped put him at ease. He gave up a pair of one-out singles in the first before sending 15 of the next 18 batters to put him in the seventh. The Houston starters have a 0.95 ERA during the winning streak.

“Obviously the rotation is doing a really good job,” Valdez said. “We all support each other and give each other advice and see if someone is doing something wrong, someone else can help fix it. It’s great that everyone is throwing well.

Gurriel crushes the first homer of the season
It was a slow start to the season at home plate for the defending American League batting champion, but Gurriel hit his first homer of the season in the first inning and added a sharp single in the ninth. The home run was his first since Oct. 2, 2021 — a streak of 102 at bats.

“We were all so happy for Yuli because he hit his first shot,” Baker said. “The first seems to be the hardest to get. Hopefully it will start rolling from there.

Gurriel said batting coach Alex Cintron helped him adjust his position in the box, which helped him see the ball better.

“I’ve worked hard and made adjustments all season to try and get the results we want,” Gurriel said. “Unfortunately that wasn’t the way it was, but today is an example [that] work pays. »

Gurriel, who won an AL Gold Glove last year, also showed his defensive prowess when he started and finished a 3-4-3 double play in the sixth. What made the play so remarkable was that Gurriel was staring at the first base sack as he caught the ball instead of looking at it.

“It’s just a game I play a lot,” he said with a smile. “I just walked in and found the bag. I knew I had the ball. »

Alvarez throws another long shot
Alvarez’s 438-foot homer to center field in the third was his 11th of the season and his third in the past two games. He briefly tied Yankees slugger Aaron Judge for the AL lead, but Judge hit his 12th later on Friday. Could he be in the early stages of a home run with Judge?

“Honestly, it’s not something I pay too much attention to,” Alvarez said. “A lot of people have told me about it, but right now my focus is to try to do a good job and get out there and play every day.”

The 11 home runs in 27 games is the fastest Alvarez has hit 11 home runs in a season, surpassing his 2019 AL Rookie of the Year campaign, when he hit 11 home runs in 30 games.

“Right now I’m focused on trying to make contact with the ball, like I always have, and luckily things are going well,” Alvarez said.

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