Keuchel joins elite with 20th win

Keuchel joins elite with 20th win

PHOENIX -- He started the All-Star Game for the American League, he was three times named the AL Pitcher of the Month, and on Friday night at Chase Field he became the seventh Astros pitcher -- and second lefty -- to win 20 games in a season. Is the Cy Young Award next?

Dallas Keuchel didn't want to hear of that after holding the D-backs to two runs and six hits in six innings in a 21-5 rout that pushed Houston a step closer to clinching a postseason spot. At 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA over 232 innings, Keuchel is the favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award whether he's ready to admit it or not.

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"He should be right in the mix," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I'm prejudiced to our guy because I've seen it. This guy's been the pitcher of the month for [three] out of the five months that have been awarded -- started the All-Star Game, pitching for the pennant race with one team. ... There's a lot of support, I guess, for [Toronto's David] Price, but [voters] can't go wrong, and I know they wouldn't go wrong if they picked our guy."

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Keuchel, who threw 99 pitches on Friday, would likely get the ball for the Astros should they play in the Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser on Tuesday on three days of rest. He's thrown 16 scoreless innings against the Yankees this year. When asked if he's ready to pitch on short rest, he said: "I could pitch tomorrow if I need to."

Keuchel has been dominant at home this season and if the Astros can catch the Yankees in the standings, the Wild Card Game would be in Houston as the Astros won the season series, 4-3, and own the tiebreaker.

After the game, Keuchel's teammates held a brief toast to him in the clubhouse for becoming the first Astros pitcher since Roy Oswalt in 2005 to win 20 games. Keuchel is so focused on the Astros' quest to reach the postseason, he wouldn't even acknowledge it.

"What toast?" he said.

When told by a reporter Hinch had informed the media of a toast, he said, "Just toasted another Astros W."

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Pitching at Chase Field gave him a chance to reflect on how far he's come. On July 21, 2012, in Arizona, he was a scuffling rookie when he was rocked for seven runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings, when the Astros were still in the NL.

"I've come a long way, but we're still nowhere near where we want to be, and that's good to say," he said. "It's not a good feeling to get your butt whipped, and I vowed to myself I was going to be better and make the necessary adjustments to play here for a long time. Whether or not was to be determined, but that was my mindset, and I think I've done a good job of that so far and there's still a lot left in the tank, hopefully. Not just for me, but for this team this year and many years to come."

Price (18-5, 2.45 ERA) wrote on Twitter in recent days Keuchel should win the Cy Young, but Keuchel's not ready to make any proclamations.

"The season's still going," he said. "That's something I'll reflect on after this season if something were to happen, but I really feel that for what he's contributed and [Oakland's] Sonny Gray as well, I think those two guys are the cream of the crop. And that's just me being a big fan for both of those guys."

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.