By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Framber Valdez’s World Series debut was a blast — for the Atlanta Braves.
Jorge Soler drove Valdez’s third pitch of last year’s opener in Houston into the Crawford Boxes in left field. The Braves went on to win the World Series in six games, and Soler earned the MVP award.
Valdez went 0-1 with a 19.29 ERA for Houston in last year’s Series, allowing four homers in 4 2/3 innings. He also started Game 5.
“Last year my emotions got the better of me during the World Series,” Valdez said through a translator Friday on the eve of his start in Game 2 against Philadelphia. “I think the key for this year is just continue doing what I’ve been doing, try not to let the game get away from me, and I think we’ll get good results there.”
Astros manager Dusty Baker said the only way to keep young players calm on baseball’s biggest stage was to “hypnotize ‘em, I guess.”
“I’m serious. I mean, how do you don’t get amped up?” the 73-year-old Baker said. “Something that you’ve been watching and aspiring to get to since you were a kid. Like Hank Aaron told me, ‘It’s OK to be nervous, just don’t be scared.’”
A 28-year-old left-hander, Valdez was 17-6 with a 2.82 ERA this season. He started Game 2 of the Division Series against Seattle and didn’t get a decision, allowing two runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings with six strikeouts and three walks.
Valdez won Game 2 of the AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees on Oct. 20, giving up four hits in seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts and no walks.
Zack Wheeler will start Game 2 for Philadelphia. He was 12-7 with a 2.82 ERA for the Phillies, missing time between Aug. 20 and Sept. 21 right forearm tendinitis.
Wheeler pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings without a decision in the wild-card opener against St. Louis and lost to Atlanta in Game 2 of the Division Series while allowing three runs in six innings.
He beat San Diego with seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the Championship Series and didn’t get a decision in Game 5 against the Padres while giving up two runs in six innings. Josh Bell hit a fourth-inning comebacker off the inside of Wheeler’s left knee.
‘It’s sore, but it feels good,” Wheeler said. “It was more of just like-in-the-moment-thing where it really hurt, and, of course, the next couple days, but it’s fine now.”
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