Winter 2022 magazine

Faith-driven Framber Valdez helps pitch Houston Astros to World Series title

Framber Valdez was arguably the most consistent starting pitcher in the major leagues this season, putting together a record-setting streak of 25 straight quality starts — six innings pitched with three or fewer earned runs. He added two more such outings during the World Series, including a gem in Game 6 Saturday night to help the Houston Astros defeat the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1, and win their second championship in franchise history.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

Valdez turned in six innings with two hits allowed, two walks and nine strikeouts. The lone run he gave up came on a solo home run off the bat of Kyle Schwarber. Valdez earned the win in both of his World Series starts, in which he totaled 12.1 innings pitched, six hits, five walks, two earned runs and 18 strikeouts.

Had it not been for rookie sensation Jeremy Peña’s stellar series, Valdez may have walked away as the series Most Valuable Player. Valdez also became the only left-handed pitcher besides Sandy Koufax to strike out five consecutive batters in a World Series game, doing so against the top five hitters in the Phillies batting order across the third and fourth innings.

“I thought the sixth inning was critical for me,” Valdez said on MLB Network following the game, through former major league pitcher Pedro Martinez serving as a translator. “I gave up a homer, but I kept my composure and my concentration on the game and was able to make pitches.”

Valdez delivered a quality start in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees as well, and was just one out short of recording one in the AL Divisional Series. In four postseason starts, he pitched 25.0 innings, went 3-0, struck out 33 batters and finished with a 1.44 earned run average.

“Framber pitched a heck of a game,” Astros manager Dusty Baker told MLB Network following the World Series win. “Nobody talks about it, but man, he was dealing.”

Valdez followed up a breakout 2021 season (11-6 in 22 starts) by leading all 2022 regular-season pitchers in quality starts (26), finishing third in wins (17), and leading the American League in innings pitched (201.1). He finished with a 2.82 ERA and 194 strikeouts.

Yet, his All-Star season might not even be the most impactful thing he’s accomplished in the past 12 months. In December, he opened the doors to a church he helped build in his hometown of Guayacanes, Dominican Republic.

“I had always asked God to continue helping and blessing me, and in return I would build a church in Guayacanes for Pastor Antonio,’’ Valdez told the MLBPA in a Spanish-language interview.

Valdez began attending the church when he was 14 years old. The building was in bad shape at the time and he made a promise that he would reach the major leagues eventually and return to help Pastor Antonio.

“Right now, I’m fulfilling this goal,” he said in December. “I’m very focused on two things — my career and building this church.”

USA Today reported that Valdez was heavily involved with the construction and “will have spent about 2 million Dominican Pesos (around $100,000) of his own money on the 1,500-square-foot structure with room for 50.”

“People do this for profit and for business,’’ Valdez told the MLBPA. “I only ask God for good health and blessings for me and my family. I haven’t made a deal with God, ‘If I build You this church, You give me this,’ because I don’t like that. I don’t like feeling like this is a business deal. I’m doing this because I made a promise.’’

In a recent story with The Athletic, Valdez described himself as a man of strong Christian faith. He also described the challenges he faced in trying to get out of the Dominican Republic, land a MLB contract, and cement himself as a starter. He’s 28 years old, but this was only his third season as a regular part of the Astros’ rotation.

“I say that I believe in myself because I believe in God,” Valdez told The Athletic. “I believe in what I can do. I believe I can last a long time playing, even if you don’t think I can.”

After his strongest regular season, followed by a stronger postseason, which culminated in a World Series championship, a lot more people believe Valdez is one of the best pitchers in the game.

RELATED STORIES:
— Cristian Javier throws 6 no-hit innings for Astros in World Series: ‘I kept my faith in God’
— Phillies P Kyle Gibson makes World Series debut, thankful to God for ‘incredible’ journey
Pitcher Aaron Nola helps Phillies snap playoff drought as he trusts God’s plan for his life
— Catcher J.T. Realmuto helps Phillies reach NLCS while keeping Christ at the center
Aaron Judge breaks AL single-season home run record: ‘I’ve got to thank God’