Astros gain in West; Keuchel 15-0 at home

Astros gain in West; Keuchel 15-0 at home

HOUSTON -- All-Star left-hander Dallas Keuchel completed his record-breaking perfect season at home and the Astros cut another game off the Rangers' division lead with a 4-2 victory on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park. The Rangers now lead the Astros by 2 1/2 games in the American League West.

Houston remains 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the top AL Wild Card spot, with a half-game lead over the Angels for the second Wild Card berth.

Watch the race to the postseason this week on MLB.TV

Keuchel allowed one run over seven innings to finish 15-0 in 18 starts at Minute Maid Park this year. He is the first pitcher in Major League history to go undefeated with at least 14 wins at home in one season. The Astros finished the regular season with a 53-28 record at home, tying for the club's best record at Minute Maid Park.

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Keuchel rebounded from a disastrous start in Arlington 11 days ago, when he surrendered a season-high 11 hits and a career-high nine earned runs in just 4 2/3 innings of a loss.

"It was nice to kind of settle down after the first," Keuchel said. "I thought [home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza] opened the zone up a little bit for both pitchers, but at the same time it was a little more comfortable for me just because I think I was trying to do too much in Arlington and that's not me. I knew what I had to do today and that was attack the zone. I think I did a good job of that and that was the key."

Hinch on Keuchel, Gomez

Martin Perez pitched well for the Rangers, allowing two unearned runs in six innings, but he still took the loss. He left trailing 2-1, and reliever Ross Ohlendorf gave up a home run to Chris Carter to lead off the seventh. A passed ball gave the Astros an extra run in the eighth, and they ended up taking two of three from the Rangers in the series.

Carter's solo blast

"We just faced some good pitchers," outfielder Shin-Soo Choo said. "Keuchel is not easy to hit, just look at his numbers. Keuchel did a nice job today."

Cy Keuchel? Keuchel had a sterling Cy Young Award resume entering Sunday's series finale, but his masterful seven-inning performance may have cemented his status as the front-runner in the AL. Keuchel allowed four baserunners -- two of which came in the first inning -- struck out 10 and retired 17 of the final 18 batters he faced. Keuchel hasn't lost a home start since Aug. 10, 2014, and his 213 strikeouts also set a single-season franchise record for left-handed pitchers. More >

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"I'd enjoy if he'd do it again next year," Astros manager A.J. Hinch quipped. "I'd like him to have another home start this year, too, which we're going to have to earn. It's hard to fathom that kind of dominance against a really good league. This is the highest league there is and this is a ballpark that doesn't always reward good pitches. It's a tough park. And he's never backed down from the challenge, he's never begged off of anything in his life. I think his year, specifically at home, is as special as they come."

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Andrus error opens door: Perez, holding a 1-0 lead, retired the first two batters in the second inning and then got Marwin Gonzalez to hit a slow grounder to shortstop. Elvis Andrus had sufficient time, but his throw pulled first baseman Mitch Moreland off the bag. That was followed by a single by Carter, a walk to Jason Castro and a two-run double by Jake Marisnick. More >

"The tough part of that is trying to pick each other up," manager Jeff Banister said. "A guy makes a mistake behind you, you have to pitch to pick him up. It's tough."

Gonzalez reaches on error

Carlos a go-go: After being sidelined for 13 straight games with a mild intercostal strain, Carlos Gomez finally found his way back on the field. Pinch-running for Evan Gattis after his eighth-inning single, Gomez stole second on the first pitch to Colby Rasmus, advanced to third when Rasmus grounded out to first and sped home on a passed ball by catcher Bobby Wilson to give the Astros a two-run lead. Banister challenged the call, but it was confirmed after review. More >

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"It's a simple injury, but tough at the same time," Gomez said. "I've been working, come here and do my training early to help to heal it."

Gomez scores on passed ball

Hamilton can't deliver: Hinch gave the Rangers a chance to get Josh Hamilton in the game as a pinch-hitter after Rougned Odor led off the eighth with a triple off left-hander Oliver Perez. Hinch, holding a 3-1 lead, brought in right-hander Will Harris to face Chris Gimenez, and Hamilton went up as a pinch-hitter. Harris struck him out. Delino DeShields got the run home with a grounder to short before Choo grounded out to end the inning.

DeShields' RBI groundout

"No, because I never thought I'd be in this position." -- Keuchel, on if he's thought about the Cy Young Award

The Rangers were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. This season they are hitting .293 with runners in scoring position in their 84 wins and .180 in their 71 losses.

Rangers: Right-hander Colby Lewis (17-8, 4.36 ERA) gets the call against the Tigers at 7:05 p.m. CT on Monday in Arlington. Lewis has won three straight starts with a 1.71 ERA. The Rangers have won 23 of their last 30 games at home.

Astros: Rookie Lance McCullers (5-7, 3.22 ERA) opens the Astros' crucial six-game road trip Monday in Seattle at 9:10 p.m. CT. McCullers has allowed three or fewer earned runs in each of his four September outings, but he doesn't have a win to show for it considering the Astros haven't scored more than three runs in any of those games.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.