HOUSTON – Before Dusty Baker became manager of the Houston Astros. he heard that left-hander Framber Valdez had all the weapons, but just needed to get it all together and find the strike zone.
In the last month, the 26-year-old has been able to do just that and it's helped steady a rotation that has been hit hard by injuries.
Valdez struck out a career-high 11 in seven strong innings and Carlos Correa drove in three runs as the Astros snapped a three-game skid with an 11-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.
Angels star Albert Pujols passed Alex Rodriguez on the career RBIs list with a single for his 2,087th run batted in. Hank Aaron is the record holder at 2,297 — Babe Ruth is listed next on some charts with 2,214, even though 224 occurred before the RBI became an official statistic in 1920.
Houston led by one with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth inning when Correa laced a double to the left field corner to send everyone home and make it 8-4. Kyle Tucker, who hit a solo homer in the second inning, followed with a double that scored Correa to pad the lead.
“Framber was doing a great job, so to be able to give him a comfortable lead that was huge for him to go out and just throw strikes and keep dominating,” Correa said.
Baker raved about Valdez's curveball, which he used to get all of his strikeouts.
“His curveball has always been good," Baker said. “What his curveball does is it kind of peels the banana, which is a baseball term where he's sinking away his fastball and then his curveball he either back doors it or peels the banana on the inside part of the plate."
Valdez (3-2) yielded six hits and four runs to get his third straight win. He got better as the game went on and retired the last seven batters he faced with five strikeouts, ending his night by fanning Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout.
The Astros got back on track after being swept in a three-game series this weekend in San Diego that came that came after they won a season-high eight games in a row.
“It was huge to win tonight because we had a really tough series in San Diego and we wanted to start off on the right foot," Correa said. “We have a long homestand so we want to make sure it's a good one and this is the right way to start."
Justin Upton homered and David Fletcher had three hits for the Angels, who have lost six of seven.
Patrick Sandoval (0-4) took the loss after the Astros jumped on him for seven hits and five runs in 2 2/3 innings.
“He just couldn’t get it to the right spots," manager Joe Maddon said. “I mean they were all over everything, is the best way I could describe it. Try to get him to reboot a little bit and slow things down but it didn’t want to happen tonight, it just didn’t. They swung the bats extremely well against him.”
Tucker gave Houston a early 1-0 lead with no outs in the second inning when he homered for the second straight game. An RBI single by Josh Reddick with one out in the inning made it 2-0.
The Angels cut the lead to 2-1 on an RBI single by Fletcher in the third.
Michael Brantley hit a run-scoring double in the third to make it 4-1. A wild pitch by Sandoval allowed Brantley to advance to third and he scored on a single by Reddick.
There were two outs in the fourth when Upton snapped a 1-for-39 skid with his solo home run to the seats in right field to cut the lead to 5-2.
Anthony Rendon and Pujols hit back-to-back RBI singles with two outs in the fifth to get the Angels within 5-4 before Correa’s big hit in the sixth.
Astros: CF George Springer exited the game in the sixth inning after he was hit by a pitch just above the left elbow. He has a bruised left elbow and X-rays were negative. ... Ace Justin Verlander threw 20 pitches on Sunday and manager Dusty Baker got a positive report that he felt good after the session. Verlander has been on the injured list since July 25 with a strained right forearm.
EYE ON THE STORM
Thursday’s game between these teams has been moved to Tuesday and will be played as part of a doubleheader because of Tropical Storm Laura.
The Astros were supposed to wrap up a four-game series with the Angels on Thursday afternoon. Instead, they will play a doubleheader starting at 4:05 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. Laura could make landfall on the Gulf coast late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
Wednesday’s game, which was scheduled to start at 9:10 p.m. Eastern, was moved up to 1:10 p.m because of the impending storm.
Maddon said Monday that the team could take a bus to another city away from the storm before flying home after Wednesday’s game. He also said that there is a possibility that the teams won’t play on Wednesday because of Laura.
Houston’s Cristian Javier (2-1, 3.55 ERA) will oppose left-hander Jose Suarez (0-1, 33.75) in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. Julio Teheran (0-2, 10.38) will start for Los Angeles in Game 2. The Astros haven’t announced their starter for the nightcap of the twin bill.