DETROIT — Blue jerseys are reserved for the Grapefruit League or getaway day and rarely seen anywhere but Minute Maid Park. The Astros don their navy blue tops on Sundays at home and throughout spring training, so rarely does the team call them “subs.” White or orange tops are the team’s home uniforms. Gray replaces white in route rotation, an accepted standard that now has an exception.

Framber Valdez feels best in navy blue. He called the jerseys “comfortable” and “not heavy”. Starting pitchers often choose the team uniform on the days they pitch. Valdez is becoming a competitor to dark horse Cy Young, even though he’s on a team with the obvious favorite. Disrupting its dominance is foolish. This is Framber’s world and the whole clubhouse lives there.

“It’s starter night,” manager Dusty Baker said ahead of time. “It’s beginners’ night every five or six days. If that’s what makes him play better and shoot better, so be it.

In his favorite pastels, Valdez extended a prolific streak while securing another first in a season full of them. The 28-year-old southpaw recorded the first shutout of his five-year major league career in Houston’s 7-0 win at Comerica Park. No Astro had thrown a shutout since Justin Verlander hit the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 1, 2019.

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Valdez scattered six hits on Monday but tied a major league single-season record with his 24th straight quality start. Only Jacob deGrom has a longer streak – a 26-start streak that spanned the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Valdez’s departure on Monday matched deGrom’s streak of 24 starts during the 2018 season, the longest in major league history. The two are total antitheses. We regularly reach 100 mph. The other hits 96 on occasion. deGrom dominates by strikeout. Valdez generates ground balls and can carve out lineouts with a curveball, switch, or cutter.

Monday gave Valdez the luxury of choosing his method. His lineout gave him a two-run lead before throwing a pitch. Houston scored Detroit starter Eduardo Rodriguez for 10 hits and five runs over five innings, allowing Valdez ample cushion against an abyssal foe.

Detroit has one of the most miserable offenses in the sport. No baseball formation has a lower slugging percentage. Only Oakland A’s have lower OPS. Detroit entered the game with 20 shutouts. Valdez’s masterpiece made it 21 – tying the most of any American League team in the designated hitter era. No team since the Chicago White Sox in 1976 has been left out further.

“I think today (my throws) were a bit more consistent, not to say my other starts were bad, but I think today I was able to attack the strike zone a bit better and I was a little more consistent there,” Valdez said through an interpreter.

Valdez struck out eight and scatter six hits. Five were single. Detroit swung early in the count and allowed Valdez extreme efficiency. He finished three frames on less than 10 pitches. It also took 11 pitches to finish both fifth and ninth.

Domination lowered Valdez’s ERA to 2.50. Only four American League starters have a lower one. Valdez has thrown more innings than anyone else, the kind of duration and durability teams need at the top of their rotation.

“We always knew he had what it took,” receiver Martín Maldonado said. “We always knew how good he could be in the past. I feel like he could become an ace at the rate he’s going. It gives us sleeves, gives us length. It’s really impressive what he does. »

A crisp defense allowed Valdez to escape early danger. He walked the first batter he faced and needed 20 pitches to end the first inning. Three of the first five hitters worked a 2-0 count against him.

“Framber always has that bad run. I feel like in the first run they had the right approach. They were taking good throws,” Maldonado said. “When the game went on, he got a better feel for that curve ball. He used the cutter a lot. The fast/change ball got a lot of ground balls.

Six of Valdez’s eight strikeouts have come on the curveball. Detroit took 17 hits against the field and breathed nine times. Valdez generated 16 total swings and misses while receiving 18 called strikes. He threw 107 pitches – seven shy of his season high.

“Most of the really good pitchers, you have to get them early,” Baker said. “If you don’t catch them early I don’t know why, but if they escape they tend to stop you.”

After Valdez took out leading man Riley Greene to start the game, Yuli Gurriel brought him down to the plate after catching Javier Báez’s scorer.

Willi Castro smashed a two-out brace in the third before Báez followed with a see-off single at the feet of Yordan Alvarez. The hitter sprinted towards the baseball and brought it back on the rebound. Detroit third baseman coach Ramón Santiagó waved Castro home.

Alvarez uncorked a two-rebound pitch. He beat Castro by one step. Plate umpire Cory Blaser ruled him safe and sound. A replay overturned his appeal.

“After the third set, when things got a little tough there and I took them out, I was like ‘this game is mine,'” Valdez said.

Only three more Tigers made it to base, fulfilling the prophecy of a man going on to smash the major league record books.

“He’s on a roll,” Baker said. “When you’re on a roll, you have positive thoughts and good things happen.”