Maldonado stays hot, lifts Houston Astros to sixth straight silver trophy

Martín Maldonado’s biggest weakness this season has been quietly becoming a much-needed addition to the Houston Astros roster. Maldonado — who entered the summer as one of baseball’s worst catchers — continued his offensive push with a three-run homer in Wednesday’s win over the Texas Rangers.

The bottom third of the lineup launched the Astros in the second frame. Jeremy Peña and Jake Meyers went through slumps with back-to-back singles to put one-out runners for Maldonado.

On the third pitch he saw, Maldonado hit a three-run homer to left field on a fastball cut to center. It was his second of the month, totaling seven RBIs on his seventh start from behind the flat in August.

The 35-year-old continues a hot July in the fifth month of the season as he closes in on a 0.700 OPS. In 20 at bats since the start of the month, Maldonado had seven hits, including three for added bases.

Later in the set, Yuli Gurriel hit her 32nd brace of the season. The 38-year-old hit 31 last season, finishing with the highest batting average in the American League.

Alex Bregman added to the Atros lead in the fifth, throwing his 14th homer of the season with a two-run shot at the Crawford Boxes. That run knocked Cole Ragans out of the game after 4 1/3 innings in only his second Major League start.

Bregman brought Gurriel home again in the seventh, opening the inning with three straight singles. A sacrifice fly from Aledmys Díaz brought Kyle Tucker home a hitter later. Tucker shoved Rangers’ Charlie Culberson into thinking he wasn’t going to score, leaving the double outfielder hanging on in shallow left field.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez

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Off the rubber, Framber Valdez struggled in the third inning after a single into the field and a hit-and-pitch that appeared to catch Bubba Thompson’s bat nob. Removing a pair with two, Valdez allowed a single down the middle. But Jeremy Peña’s trusty glove kept the ball from reaching the outfield and prevented a run from scoring.

With the bases loaded, Valdez flew to Jonah Heim to stop any threat from the Rangers offense. The southpaw totaled seven innings in his afternoon start, ranking first in the American League with 142.

With just four hits and one walk allowed, Valdez struck out eight batters in his 20th quality start of the season, 19th in a row since April 25. His streak is the longest in Major League Baseball since Jacob deGrom’s 26 consecutive quality starts from the New York Mets from May 2018 to April 2019. Mike Scott holds the Astros franchise record with 20 consecutive quality games during of his Cy Young season in 1986.

Valdez was named the Game’s YouTube Player. He joined Jake Meyers and Cristian Javier as the Astros in taking home the award – both players won it in the 2021 season.

Nathaniel Lowe and Leody Taveras had two runs at home in the eighth with two outs on Seth Martinez, ending the Astros’ shutout. After his 17-game scoreless streak was snapped on June 26, Martinez allowed eight runs in his final 15 2/3 innings.

Marcus Semien added a third run in the ninth inning on a two-out home run against Rafael Montero. But that’s all the Rangers could manage against the Astros in the series loss.

The Astros won their sixth straight Silver Boot trophy, dating back to the 2017 season. The club opens a three-game set with the Oakland A’s at 7:10 p.m. Friday at Minute Maid Park. Luis García and Adam Oller are the likely starting pitchers.

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  9. Report: Manger Baker hopes to return to Astros before weekend
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