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ALCS Game 6: How to beat Framber Valdez the second time around

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Feast on fastballs.

MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Framber Valdez is scheduled to take the mound for the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the ALDS this afternoon after putting up a very solid 6.0 inning start allowing two runs in Game 1.

Even though Valdez took the loss, he threw a very good game. One of the runs came off a Randy Arozarena solo homer, because that’s been all he’s done this postseason. It wasn’t his fault his offense only scored one run in the game. He did his job.

Before game one Homin Lee wrote about Valdez’s approach here at DRaysBay.

Did Valdez change his approach against the Rays in Game 1?

Valdez’s pitch mix was not that much different than normal. He threw 47 sinkers, 8 changeups, and 40 curveballs. He threw one left-on-left changeup to Brandon Lowe as the first pitch he saw out of his hand and resulted in his lone swinging strike with the pitch in the outing.

In the first inning the Rays struck out three times in the first as part of their eight strikeouts against Valdez. However as the game progressed they were able to get on base four times via walk by a pitcher that has limited walks.

The biggest problem Rays batters faced was the curveball. 10 of the 13 swinging strikes were generated off the curveball. 2 were via the sinker and 1 by the changeup.

Chases pitches, especially breaking balls, below the zone isn’t usually a good idea. The Rays swung at 20 curves and only five resulted in whiffs out of the zone, which is fine. Overall, Valdez did a good job of keeping his curves down and just below the zone.

The fastball was a different story.

The Rays mostly took the ones out of the zone, but they also took many over the heart of the plate. So while their swings were usually good and the results followed, there was plenty more to work with.

For the Rays to have more success this afternoon than last time around, they need to be hunting for his sinker, be ready to launch anything with any elevation, and not chase curves out of the zone. But that won’t be enough, the ones in the zone can be just as deadly. Valdez’s pitch mix leaned towards the curveball once he got to two strikes, with 14 of his 23 pitches (60.9%) curveballs. He was even able to pull the string in back-to-back at bats.

The best way to eliminate the threat of the curve will be to hunt the fastball.

While this gameplan is pretty generic, it is actually pretty similar to one you would recommend when facing Tyler Glasnow, as Valdez’s major weapon is his curveball.

Valdez’s velocity might not be as elite as Glasnow, but he still brings it there in the 93-95 range. He throws his changeup more often, but it’s still mostly a pitch you can’t really think about as a hitter when it’s thrown around 5% of the time.

Game 6 begins at 6:00 EST on TBS.

Go Rays.