Astros manager Dusty Baker didn't deliberate at all when the time came to make a decision on pulling left-hander Framber Valdez, who worked six hitless innings in Houston's 4-1 home victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday.
Valdez labored with his control throughout and issued six walks againstfour strikeouts while throwing just 53 of his 99 pitches for strikes. His season high for pitches in a start is 108 in a 7-3 home win over the Chicago White Sox on June 19. In truth, an individual no-hitter was unlikely.
"I didn't get too frustrated by that," Valdez said of being lifted. "I recognized that I wasted a lot of pitches. I know what I need to do, and I know I need to make adjustments so I can get deeper into games. I didn't take it to heart because I know what I have to do to stay in games longer."
Right-hander Zack Greinke (9-3, 3.58 ERA) will start the series finale for the Astros on Sunday. He allowed two runs on five hits over 5 1/3 innings in his previous start, a 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians on July 19.
Greinke leads the club with 10 quality starts, and the Astros are unbeaten in those games. He is second in the American League in starts (20) and ranks fourth in innings (102 2/3) and wins.
Greinke is 6-6 with a 3.13 ERA over 20 career appearances (18 starts) against Texas, including 2-0 with a 4.26 ERA this season.
Left-hander Taylor Hearn (2-3, 4.70) will start Sunday as Texas attempts to avert the series sweep and an 0-9 record at Minute Maid Park this season.
Hearn will make his 31st appearance and his second start of 2021, with his previous start coming against the Oakland Athletics, when he allowed four runs on two hits and three walks while recording only two outs in a 13-6 loss on June 22. He has made seven consecutive relief appearances since, going 0-1 with a 0.90 ERA while allowing a .094/.194/.094 slash line.
Hearn is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA over five career relief appearances against the Astros, with that victory coming May 21, when Hearn allowed one unearned run on one hit and one walk with two strikeouts in one inning in the Rangers' 7-5 win.
The Rangers, no-hit twice previously this season by the Yankees' Corey Kluber and the Padres' Joe Musgrove, broke up the Astros' combined no-hit bid in the eighth inning when shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa flared a leadoff single into shallow right field. Despite earning six walks off Valdez, the Rangers were unable to get a hit during his six innings on the mound.
"I was really confident that we were going to do some things against Framber," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. "Now, he's got good stuff. This guy's got an elite curveball with a good two-seamer and changeup to go with it. We didn't really chase his curveball, which got us in trouble the last time we faced him. The last thing is we have to get the ball in the air.
"However, you have to find a way to get under that sinker; you have to do it. We have to mature into the ability to (execute the game plan) if you're going to survive in this league. It's a good test and a good conversation we're going to have (Sunday)."
--Field Level Media