Maybe Framber Valdez took the Houston Astros’ trade for Justin Verlander on Tuesday afternoon as a personal challenge. Just a few hours later, Valdez breezed through the Cleveland Guardians for the second no-hitter of the 2023 MLB season.
The lefty walked just one batter and faced the minimum, needing just 93 pitches to complete nine hitless innings. It was a performance so dominant that Valdez didn’t even need the prodigal One Great Defensive Play to bail him out; he threw over 70% of his pitches for strikes, constantly getting ahead of a weak Cleveland lineup with his power sinker and finishing at-bats with a sharp curveball.
It’s the whopping 16th no-hitter in franchise history for Houston — the most by any expansion team added after 1961 — and the first since the team’s historic combined no-no in Game 4 of last year’s World Series. (Don Nottebart threw the first no-hitter for the Astros, way back on May 17, 1963.)
Yet despite that illustrious history, no lefty had thrown a no-hitter for Houston until Valdez on Tuesday night. It’s another bullet point in what’s becoming a pretty compelling AL Cy Young resume: Valdez entered Tuesday with a 3.29 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 9.6 K/9, the one rock amid a season full of rotation turmoil for the Astros. It’s just the second no-hitter this season, coming just over a month after Yankees righty Domingo German’s perfect game against the Oakland Athletics.
The no-no is also the exclamation point on what was a huge day for the team. GM Dana Brown went big at the trade deadline, taking advantage of the Mets’ fire sale (and Justin Verlander’s full no-trade clause) to bring the three-time Cy Young winner back to Houston. With Verlander and Valdez atop the rotation — plus the impending return of Jose Urquidy and a promising young rookie in Hunter Brown — the Astros should have more than enough pitching come October.
But for as great as Valdez was, if we’re being honest, he had a bit of help from a totally overmatched Guardians outfit that ran out such luminaries as Tyler Freeman, Oscar Gonzalez, David Fry, Will Brennan, Gabriel Arias, Myles Straw and Cam Gallagher. Some of those names are intriguing young players who could very well have a future in Cleveland, but the effortless nature of Valdez’s no-hitter underscores what the team knew all too well as it entered this trade deadline: They’re not going anywhere unless they fix the offense.
The Guardians haven't thrown a no-hitter since May 15, 1981, the longest drought in the league.— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) August 2, 2023
But they have now been no-hit five times since the start of the 2021 season.
To their credit, the Guardians tried to do just that, flipping righty Aaron Civale to the Tampa Bay Rays for top first-base prospect Kyle Manzardo. Still, as Tuesday night showed, things might get worse before they get better.