HOUSTON — Just as they had done the night before, the Astros built a five-run lead Saturday for a starting pitcher they could trust.
The difference this time? That pitcher delivered.
Framber Valdez, with his own lackluster World Series history to overcome, gave the Astros the kind of performance they expected a night earlier from Justin Verlander. With the left-handed Valdez’s superb outing into the seventh inning as their guide, the Astros beat the Phillies 5-2 in Game 2 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park.
The series, even at 1-1, will resume Monday night in Philadelphia, which will host a World Series game for the first time since 2009.
Valdez left to a standing ovation of twirling orange rally towels after throwing his 104th pitch of the game and retiring Alec Bohm for the first out in the seventh inning, with the Astros ahead 5-0.
Rafael Montero allowed an inherited runner to score on Jean Segura’s sacrifice fly, closing the line on Valdez, who allowed one earned run on four hits and three walks over 6 ¹/₃ innings with nine strikeouts. Valdez started twice in the 2021 World Series against the Braves and flopped in both appearances, pitching to a 19.29 ERA.
Verlander, who flushed a five-run lead in the Astros’ Game 1 loss, has pitched to a 6.07 ERA in eight career World Series starts.
Phillies ace Zack Wheeler had his worst start of this postseason, allowing five runs, four earned, on six hits over five innings. The right-hander was removed after only 69 pitches, following Alex Bregman’s two-run homer in the fifth inning that put the Phillies in a five-run hole.
But unlike Game 1, in which the Phillies rallied against Verlander in the middle innings — and ultimately went ahead in the 10th inning on J.T. Realmuto’s homer against Luis Garcia — the cavalry never arrived.
Wheeler threw all of four pitches in allowing three straight doubles to begin the game, giving the Astros a 2-0 lead. Jose Altuve and Jeremy Peña each jumped on a first pitch and doubled. Yordan Alvarez fouled off the first pitch he saw before joining the parade with another double.
After Bregman and Kyle Tucker were retired, Wheeler got Yuli Gurriel to hit a grounder to shortstop that should have ended the inning. But Edmundo Sosa hesitated before bouncing a throw that Rhys Hoskins couldn’t scoop, allowing Alvarez to score the inning’s third run. Sosa was charged with an error.
Wheeler avoided further trouble until the fifth, when Bregman crushed a two-run homer that extended the Astros’ lead to 5-0. Altuve singled leading off the inning, and with one out, Alvarez hit a grounder that was nearly an inning-ending double play. But Alvarez beat the throw to first, and after a replay review upheld that Altuve was out at second base (Sosa’s foot was fast off the bag), Bregman launched a shot to left field for his third homer this postseason.
Valdez sizzled, striking out eight batters over the first five innings. The Phillies finally put the leadoff hitter of an inning on base in the fifth, when Segura singled, but Matt Vierling hit into a double play. Valdez walked a batter in each of the first two innings, but neither advanced past first base. The Phillies put two runners aboard against Valdez in the sixth, but Nick Castellanos hit into an inning-ending double play.
Montero pitched 1 ²/₃ innings of shutout relief, but not without brief drama. In the eighth inning, Kyle Schwarber hit a missile toward the right-field foul pole that was initially ruled fair for a two-run homer. But umpires convened and changed the call to foul, which was upheld by replay. Schwarber returned to the plate and hit a shot to right field that Tucker caught near the top of the fence.
The inning was extended on Realmuto’s grounder, which Peña fielded behind second base. Peña flipped the ball toward the bag, but Altuve, believing the shortstop was going to to first, was crouched on the ground away from the base and watched the ball plop to the ground. Montero escaped by retiring Bryce Harper on a pop-out to short right.
In the ninth inning, Gurriel’s fielding error allowed the Phillies to score an unearned run against Ryan Pressly.
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