By Bryan Hoch and Chandler Rome
MLB.com |@BryanHoch |
HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel delivered a commanding performance, setting a career high with 12 strikeouts and handcuffing the Yankees in a complete-game effort to lead the Astros to a 4-0 victory on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park.
Working in front of the new "Keuchel's Korner" fan section for the first time, Keuchel permitted six hits and wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning to finish off his third complete game and second shutout of the season.
"I haven't been here a long time, but that's probably as good as I've seen Dallas Keuchel," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "His ball was moving all over the place tonight, which made them have to be aggressive and he had really, really good put away pitches that ended at-bats in his favor."
Keuchel (9-3) retired 18 of 19 through one stretch, including 15 straight before Alex Rodriguez's two-out single in the ninth inning.
"He just moved the ball all over the place," Rodriguez said. "He sunk it, cut it, changed it up. He struck me out with three different pitches. Tip your cap."
Jose Altuve had three hits, scored three runs and stole two bases to pace Houston's offense as it handed a loss to right-hander Adam Warren, who permitted three runs (two earned) and five hits over 5 2/3 innings. Evan Gattis drove in two runs, while Preston Tucker and Colby Rasmus also picked up RBIs for the Astros.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Keuchel's K's: Keuchel tied his career high with 11 strikeouts when he fanned Rodriguez for the third time to end the sixth and broke it when he punched out Chase Headley in the ninth. Keuchel danced around some trouble in the ninth -- stranding the bases loaded when he induced Jose Pirela to bounce out to third. Keuchel's complete game was his third this season and his second against the Yankees in his career. He did not allow a runner past first base until the ninth.
"They didn't really hit the ball in the air until the seventh inning," Hinch said. "He had all his pitches working, his little moxie on the mound. Very confident, went right at guys and got guys out with every pitch." More >
'E'-asy pickings: Three Yankees errors contributed to Houston's scoring. Stephen Drew booted a Luis Valbuena grounder in the fourth, an inning that saw Rasmus lift a sacrifice fly, and in the sixth, catcher John Ryan Murphy threw into center field on an Altuve steal attempt. Altuve would come around to score on a Gattis single up the middle. Warren's night ended when he fielded a Rasmus grounder and fired errantly down the first-base line, prompting the Yanks to call upon Chris Capuano.
"You know that at any time, one of our guys can hit the ball out of the ballpark," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "When it starts to get to three and four, with the way [Keuchel is] pitching, you know it's going to be tough."
Altuve's healthy: Any perceived ill effects of Altuve's strained hamstring were quashed. The reigning American League batting champ and All-Star stole two bases against the Yankees, who had given up the fewest stolen bases in the AL (22) entering the night. After legging out an infield single in the sixth, Altuve stole second and sped to third when Murphy's throw was awry. He would later score on Gattis' rip up the middle to give Houston a big insurance run. The pair repeated their exploits in the eighth, when Altuve stole third after his second double of the night and Gattis drove him in with a double. Altuve has an AL-leading 20 steals this season.
"That's part of my game against everyone," Altuve said when asked if there was an extra emphasis on being aggressive against the Yankees. "Try to get on base, get to the next base. We knew we only needed a couple runs to win the game because we had our best pitcher out there." More >
Going West: The Yankees tipped their caps to Keuchel, but they also did not hide the fact that they had some quarrels with home-plate umpire Joe West's strike zone. That displeasure was noticed beginning in the first inning, when Rodriguez turned to speak to West after a called third strike and Mark Teixeira did the same.
"You guys saw it. I don't have to say anything about the zone," said Teixeira, who later added, "I mean, it doesn't hurt [Keuchel]."
"'How you feelin?' "I said, 'Dandy.'" That's pretty much it." -- Keuchel, on his conversation with Hinch on the mound in the ninth
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Thursday's complete game was the 27th straight start in which Keuchel has gone more than six innings -- the longest active streak in the Majors.
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees: New York hands the ball to right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (6-2, 4.95 ERA) as he makes his 15th start of the year Friday at 8:10 p.m. ET. Eovaldi is coming off a victory over the Tigers in which he retired 14 of the first 15 hitters and set a career low with just four baserunners allowed over six innings. Eovaldi, a product of Alvin, Texas, will be making his first Major League appearance in his home state.
Astros: Houston will send rookie righty Vincent Velasquez (0-0, 4.15 ERA) to the mound Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT, looking for the first decision of his Major League career. He's the first Major League pitcher since Hideo Nomo in 1995 to go five innings or less and strike out five or more in each of his first three starts.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.