By Ronald Blum
HOUSTON — Framber Valdez made a five-run lead stand up after Houston’s lightning first-inning burst, Alex Bregman homered and the Astros beat the Philadelphia Phillies 5-2 Saturday night to tie the World Series at one game apiece.
Just like in Game 1, the Astros rushed to a 5-0 lead. Unlike ace Justin Verlander in the opener, Valdez and Houston held on.
Valdez rebounded from a pair of poor outings in last year’s Series to pitch shutout ball into the seventh, and the bullpen survived a couple of jams to close things out.
Jose Altuve, Jeremy Peña and Yordan Alvarez all doubled as Houston took a two-run lead four pitches in against Zack Wheeler. An error allowed another run in the first and Bregman added a two-run homer in the fifth.
A day after coming back for a 6-5 win in 10 innings. Philadelphia tried to rally in this one, too.
With the Phillies trailing by four runs, Kyle Schwarber hit a drive deep down the right-field line with a man on in the eighth against Rafael Montero that was originally ruled a two-run homer by right field line umpire James Hoye.
First base umpire Tripp Gibson at first signaled for umps to conference and the call was reversed on a crew chief review when it was determined the ball was just to the foul side of the pole.
Schwarber, who led the NL in home runs this season, then hit a long drive that was caught at the right field wall.
Ryan Pressly finished the combined six-hitter, giving up a run on an error by first baseman Yuli Gurriel.
Following the split in Houston, the Series resumes Monday night when Citizens Bank Park hosts the Series for the first time since 2009.
Of 61 previous Series tied 1-1, the Game 2 winner went on to the title 31 times — but just four of the last 14.
After struggling to a 19.29 ERA in a pair of Series starts in last year’s six-game loss to Atlanta, Valdez pitched with polish and poise. His cheeks glistening with sweat, the 28-year-old left-hander struck out nine and walked three, allowing four hits in 6 1/3 innings.
He blew by batters with a fastball averaging 95.6 mph and baffled them with his curve, which got three of his strikeouts— all looking. Unusually, he changed his glove and spikes mid-outing.
When the Phillies put two runners on for the only time against him in the sixth, Valdez struck out Game 1 star J.T. Realmuto with high heat, then got Bryce Harper to bounce a first-pitch sinker into an inning-ending double play.
Nick Castellanos led off the seventh with a double and Valdez left after a groundout advanced the runner. Montero allowed Jean Segura’s sacrifice fly to the left-field warning track.
A day after the deflating defeat, the Astros came out swinging and became the first team to open a Series game with three straight extra-base hits.
Altuve, in a 4-for-37 postseason slump, lined a sinker into left-center for the first of his three hits and Peña drove a curveball into the left-field corner for a 1-0 lead.
Alvarez fouled off a pitch and drove a slider high off the 19-foot wall in left. Wheeler should have escaped down just 2-0, but shortstop Edmundo Sosa bounced his throw to first on Gurriel’s three-hopper for an error, the ball glancing off the mitt of first baseman Rhys Hoskins.
Bregman, healthy after two injury-hampered seasons, hit a two-run homer to left in the fifth when Wheeler left a slider over the middle of the plate. Bregman has six career Series homers and three this postseason with nine RBIs.
Houston won 106 games during the season and Philadelphia 87, the second-highest win disparity in the Series behind the 93-win Chicago White Sox beat the 116-win Cubs in 1906.
LHP Ranger Suárez is likely to start Game 3 for the Phillies and RHP Lance McCullers Jr. for the Astros. Suárez relieved in the opener, struck out Alvarez to end the seventh and retired Bregman starting the eighth. He gave up Kyle Tucker’s single and was relieved. McCullers made two starts in the playoffs without a decision.