Dad overcomes fear of flying, Valdez overwhelms Phillies

HOUSTON — Sitting in an aisle seat atop section 122 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, Jose Antonio Valdez Ramirez fixed his attention to the pitcher’s mound, where his son was pitching one of the best games of his life. Valdez Ramirez had seen Framber Valdez pitch on television many times, but watching him work in the World Series — the first time he’s seen him pitch a big league game in person — was the proudest moment of his life.

“I’m so grateful,” the father of the Astros’ left-hander said. “I am so happy, happy, happy of what he’s been able to accomplish and proud of him for everything he’s done and to be here in the World Series.”

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Valdez Ramirez overcame his fear of flying, traveling from his native Dominican Republic to Houston, because he couldn’t miss this moment. And what a night it was for Framber Valdez, who held the Phillies to one run and struck out nine batters in 6 1/3 innings to lead the Astros to a 5-2 win in Game 2 as Houston evened the World Series at a game apiece.

“It just feels really good to be here in the World Series having this kind of outing,” Framber Valdez said.

• Astros make 5-run lead hold up to even Series

Valdez walked off the mound to a huge roar from a sold-out crowd of 42,926 with one out in the seventh inning, tipping his cap as he glanced in the general direction of where his parents were sitting in the stands. Valdez tied Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez for the most postseason wins (six) by a Dominican pitcher.

“There were a lot of people there, so I really didn’t see them,” Valdez said. “I was waving out toward the crowd blindly. Hopefully they saw it. But it did feel good knowing that they were both there being able to watch this game.”

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Framber Valdez on start, win
Valdez’s mother, Santa Delfina Pinales de Valdez, has seen him pitch in person a few times, but his father said he got goosebumps when he looked around the stands and saw Astros fans wearing his son’s No. 59 jersey. An All-Star this year, Valdez has blossomed into one of the best lefties in baseball.

“I feel very proud to have my father here, even to the point he didn’t want to come at first because he was afraid of flying,” Valdez said. “My mom, that’s a different thing. It’s her second year here. She doesn’t mind flying. But, yeah, to have my dad here gives me a little bit of extra strength, and especially he’s just used to seeing me pitch on TV, seeing guys like [Jose] Altuve, [Alex] Bregman, [Jeremy] Peña on TV. Now he’s able to see them in person. It means a lot.”

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Dusty Baker on Game 2 victory
Valdez, relying mostly on his cutter and curveball, allowed only three singles through six innings, carrying a shutout into the seventh. He started the frame at 94 pitches and gave up a leadoff double to Nick Castellanos. Astros manager Dusty Baker pulled Valdez from the game after an Alec Bohm groundout (Castellanos eventually scored) to a loud ovation.

“He did what he’s been doing all year — attacking the strike zone and getting out of trouble, maintaining his focus, maintaining his confidence,” Astros catcher Martín Maldonado said. “We weren’t expecting anything less from him.”

The outing was the longest in the Fall Classic by any pitcher since Houston’s Zack Greinke threw 6 1/3 innings in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series — a game Astros fans would rather forget. This time, Valdez’s outing punctuated a memorable night in which the Astros scored three runs in the first inning and took a 5-0 lead on a Bregman homer in the fifth.

Valdez, who changed his glove, cleats and belt at one point in the game because he was looking for an edge, struck out at least one batter in each of the first six innings and got double plays to erase baserunners after giving up singles in the fifth and sixth innings. He had 15 swings and misses, including nine on the curveball.

“The breaking ball was an equalizer tonight,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “He spun it really well. He threw it in the right spots. Just a good pitch for him. He seemed like he leaned on it.”

While some were surprised Baker chose to send Valdez to the mound to start the seventh, a proud dad in section 122 never lost faith in his son.

“I knew he was going to get the job done,” he said.