Framber Valdez matched his career high for strikeouts, Kyle Tucker slugged a two-run home run and the Houston Astros claimed the rubber match of their three-game series with the Texas Rangers with a 2-1 victory on Thursday at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros (25-25) picked up a game on the Seattle Mariners in the race for second place in the American League West and an automatic postseason berth. Seattle lost to the San Francisco Giants 6-4 earlier Thursday and fell three games behind the Astros.
Valdez (4-3) recorded 11 strikeouts, matching his total from an 11-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park on Aug. 24. While half of his 100 pitches were sinkers, Valdez earned 12 swinging strikes on 41 curveballs. Thirteen of his 21 called strikes were on the sinker.
Valdez labored but struck out the side in the first inning to strand runners at the corners. He found his groove in the second, striking out Eli White and Jeff Mathis to cap that frame to ignite a stretch where he retired 15 of 16 batters. A leadoff walk to Joey Gallo in the fourth was the lone hiccup for Valdez prior to Sherten Apostel reaching on a one-out double in the seventh.
Valdez allowed four hits and walked one batter over 6 1/3 innings.