With the Houston Astros suffering a loss in Game 1 of the 2022 World Series, and the Philadelphia Phillies forcing Houston to go to its bullpen for the final five frames of the contest, all eyes will be on Houston starter Framber Valdez on Saturday night.
Houston Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez will be a key to World Series Game 2
Staked to a 5-0 lead after three innings, Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander melted down in the fourth and fifth frames as the Phillies mounted a comeback. J.T. Realmuto would be the hero for the Phillies in the 10th, blasting a solo home run off Luis Garcia to set the table for a 6-5 Philadelphia win.
Now Houston manager Dusty Baker will hand the ball to Valdez in the hopes that he can not only pitch well, but stay on the mound for a long stretch on Saturday, giving Houston’s bullpen the minimum amount of innings needed to secure a victory.
“Well, we just need Framber to be Framber,” Baker said after the Game 1 loss. “Usually that’s enough runs for Framber and JV [Verlander], and it wasn’t enough tonight.
“We need some innings. They kind of went through their bullpen. We went through ours. So it’s matter of how far the starters can go tomorrow.”
In his starts this postseason, the 28-year-old southpaw has gone 5.2 innings in the ALDS against the Seattle Mariners and 7.0 against the New York Yankees in the ALCS. In those 12.2 innings, Valdez has given up eight hits and two earned runs while striking out 15 and walking just three.
In the Game 1 loss, the pitch count for Houston’s bullpen stayed low enough that Baker could well have options in Game 2, provided Valdez can indeed provide length. Garcia threw 16 pitches in the 10th inning while closer Ryan Pressly threw 15 pitches to get the game into extra innings. Those were the most pitches thrown by Houston’s final five pitchers employed in the last 3.1 frames.
With an off day on Sunday, don’t be surprised if Baker uses one of those pitchers again on Saturday. However, if Valdez can go deep into the game and Houston can build a lead, Baker may also look to give them additional rest before the series shifts to Philadelphia for consecutive games on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
That’s the best-case scenario for the Astros, and it all depends on how well and how long Valdez pitches in Game 2.