HOUSTON -- All-Star left-hander Dallas Keuchel dominated the Rangers for seven scoreless innings, striking out a career-high 13, and Luis Valbuena led an offensive outburst by going 4-for-5 with a career-high-tying four RBIs to lead the Astros to a 10-0 win Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
"That was one of those special performances," Keuchel said. "I was just trying to ride it and the offense did a heck of a job, so it made my life a lot easier."
Keuchel (12-4) sent down the final 18 batters, including six in a row by strikeout during one stretch, to become the first 12-game winner in the American League. The only Rangers to reach base against Keuchel were Prince Fielder on a two-out double in the first and Josh Hamilton with a leadoff single in the second.
"We knew this was going to be a tough ballgame today," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "The guy was the starter for the American League in the All-Star Game. He is on a roll. He is a good pitcher with quality stuff. If you don't get any baserunners against a guy like Keuchel, it is going to be a battle. He was tough today."
Rangers starter Yovani Gallardo (7-9), who has pitched well against the Astros throughout his career, lasted only four innings, giving up five runs and seven hits. He served up a two-run homer to Colby Rasmus in the third that made it 3-0, and he was pulled after the first two runners reached in the fifth. Valbuena scored them both with a single for a 5-0 lead.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Dallas dominant: Making his first start for the Astros since starting the All-Star Game for the American League on Tuesday, Keuchel was downright dominant. He allowed only three balls hit out of the infield and became the first Astros pitcher to strike out as many as 13 since Wandy Rodriguez had 13 on Aug. 29, 2011, vs. the Pirates.
"It was vintage Dallas Keuchel with a few more strikeouts," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "To end his outing with 13 punched [out], six ground balls, a couple of popups, in complete control -- he retired his last 18 -- that's our guy. There's no way around it. He's been doing it like this really the whole year. A couple of games where he hasn't been this dominant, but Dallas Keuchel has arrived. He's a threat every time he goes out to put up a game like this." More >
Gallardo road streak snapped: Gallardo entered the game having not allowed a run in 22 1/3 innings on the road. He added two more innings to that before the Astros scored three in the third. He ends up with the third-longest road scoreless streak in club history, with the record being 40 by Gaylord Perry in 1977. More >
Astros offense erupts: Houston's offense, which managed only seven runs in a six-game losing streak it carried into the All-Star break, showed signs of life by scoring four times late Saturday. The Astros put their offensive frustrations behind them Sunday by bashing out 13 hits and scoring 10 runs -- their most since July 3.
"I definitely expected us to bounced out of that," said Rasmus. "It happens throughout the season when you go through times like that, but that shows the character of our team to come out of it and play hard. I think the biggest thing for us is everybody is pulling together and playing the game hard, playing the game the right way." More >
Arrivederci, Ranaudo:Anthony Ranaudo took over in the fifth for Gallardo and pitched three innings. He allowed seven runs while allowing nine of 18 batters to reach on five hits, three walks and one hit batter. It was his first appearance for the Rangers since July 5 and likely his last for awhile. The Rangers are expected to return Ranaudo to Triple-A on Monday so he can get work as a starter.
"We are playing with urgency. When you lose 10-0, it doesn't look good. The perception of the energy level, you can look at it any way you want. We knew this game would be a tough one. We knew it would be a well-pitched game, and it was." -- Banister
"Our guys are well aware of what's at stake, and we need a lot of days like this to get to the finish line, but this is a good start to win two out of three against Texas." -- Hinch
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Rangers have lost five straight when the opposing teams throw a left-hander and are 14-20 overall. They face two left-handers in three games when they go to Colorado next.
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: The Rangers are bringing back Nick Martinez from Triple-A to pitch against the Rockies at 7:40 p.m. CT on Monday at Coors Field. The right-hander lost his past three starts before being sent down. His last start for the Rangers was July 1.
Astros: Rookie righty Vincent Velasquez returns to the mound when the Astros open a three-game series against the Red Sox at 7:10 p.m. CT on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. As an innings-saving measure, Velasquez was optioned to Double-A Corpus Christi after his July 7 start against Cleveland, where he fired 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball in a 2-0 loss. He hasn't thrown in a game since, but has kept on a throwing program, including tossing bullpens and batting practices.