HOUSTON -- It was gut-check time for Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel.
After giving up a pair of singles to start the seventh inning, to Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes of the Indians, while protecting a tenuous one-run lead, Keuchel buckled down and recorded three consecutive outs to strand the runners in scoring position and preserve the Astros' 2-0 Opening Day win on Monday night at Minute Maid Park.
"That was a tough one," Keuchel said. "We had just scored, so all I was thinking about was getting that leadoff guy out. I didn't do a good job of that. They hit some good pitches, and I felt like I buckled down and made some quality two-seam pitches. That's all I was asking for, an opportunity for a double play or a couple of weak ground balls."
Keuchel wound up throwing seven scoreless innings in his first Opening Day assignment, allowing three hits and three walks. He joins Roy Oswalt as the only pitchers in club history to throw at least seven scoreless innings on Opening Day.
"That guy is good, man," Gomes said. "I've faced him since college, and in the Minor Leagues. That guy can keep you off-balance. He moves the ball in and out. He's a very good pitcher."
After allowing the singles to start the seventh, Keuchel struck out Brandon Moss before making a pair of defensive plays to escape. A Gold Glove Award winner a year ago, Keuchel burst off the mound and fielded a Ryan Raburn dribbler down the third-base line and threw Raburn out, though the runners advanced. Keuchel then fielded a Lonnie Chisenhall roller in front of the mound and threw to first to keep Cleveland scoreless.
"Dallas Keuchel has a temperament to finish his own inning," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He wants to finish every start, but to watch him field his position, to bounce off the mound, he made pitches when he needed to. There's not a competition he's going to back down from. I love watching him compete. Even at the end, when he's extended out about as far as we wanted to go with him, especially Day 1, he finds a way to finish things out on a positive note."
One of the key plays in the inning came on Gomes' infield hit, when third baseman Luis Valbuena made a diving stop to keep Santana from advancing to third, which would have changed the complexion of the inning.
"You don't know what's going to happen after that, but it's probably a game saver," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That was a heck of a play. At worst, we're second and third -- maybe better."
Said Keuchel: "I think Valbuena had the play of the day, for sure."