Dallas spins dominant case for All-Star status

Keuchel fans career-high 11 in shutout, sports AL-best 1.76 ERA

Dallas spins dominant case for All-Star status

HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel bolstered his case to make his first All-Star team by throwing his second career shutout, leading the Astros to a 3-0 win over the White Sox on Saturday afternoon at Minute Maid Park to tie the franchise's best record after 50 games (31-19).

Keuchel (7-1) struck out a career-high 11 batters, allowed four hits and didn't walk a batter to become the first Astros pitcher to throw consecutive complete games since Roy Oswalt in 2008. He leads the American League in ERA (1.76) and Majors in innings pitched (81 2/3).

"Dallas Keuchel showed exactly the type of pitcher he can be on any given night, and he's been that way a lot," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "This is about as in control of the game and his stuff and the tempo. ... They didn't hit a ton of balls hard. He controlled the game when we made a couple of miscues behind him. Really complete game in every facet."

Keuchel relied heavily on his fastball early and had the White Sox swinging at pitches just off the edge of the plate. He had 13 groundouts, which helped him pitch around two errors by third baseman Jonathan Villar.

"I had some good stuff today, and I was just trying to continue to roll," Keuchel said. "Some of the hitters were tougher than others. When I can spot the two-seam [fastball] like I did, I know I have a pitch in my back pocket when I need it."

Astros catcher Jason Castro marveled at Keuchel's command.

"His sinker was outstanding again today," Castro said. "He kind of filled in with his off-speed where he wanted to get guys off his fastball, and he just did a great job executing all game."

The only runner Keuchel allowed in the last three innings came when Geovany Soto reached on a throwing error to start the eighth, but Keuchel came back with a strikeout and a double play to the inning, and retired the White Sox in order in the ninth on two grounders and a game-ending strikeout of Melky Cabrera. He threw 113 pitches, 78 for strikes.

"He's as competitive as anybody we have on our team," Hinch said. "When he has the ball in his hands and he gets in the zone, he's borderline unapproachable. He's so focused and intense with his pitch-by-pitch sequence, and he has a great ability to stay that way whether he's out there for 90 pitches, 100 pitches, 110 or 120. That speaks a lot to his preparation and just his overall competitiveness and why he's turning into one of the better pitchers in our league."

Castro said Keuchel should be headed to the All-Star Game.

"Absolutely," he said. "He's been dominant. Not just this year, but most of last year, too. If anyone's deserving, it's definitely him."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.