KANSAS CITY -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch tabbed left-hander Scott Kazmir to start Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Royals on Friday at 2:30 p.m. CT on FOX Sports 1. Kazmir is 7-11 with a 3.10 ERA in 31 starts this year, but he's 2-6 with a 4.17 ERA in 13 starts since coming to the Astros in a July trade with Oakland.
Hinch said left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who threw six scoreless innings to beat the Yankees on Tuesday, would start Game 3 on Sunday at 3 p.m. CT on MLB Network at Minute Maid Park, where he was 15-0 this season. Keuchel threw eight scoreless innings on June 30 against the Royals in Houston and was roughed up for five runs and 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings on July 26 at Kauffman Stadium.
"They're a great team," Keuchel said. "They're very fun. They're fun to watch, and they're fun to pitch against, just because they have so much talent up and down the order. They've got table-setters. They've got power guys. They've got scrappy guys. You name it, they've got it. They've got speed. As a competitor standpoint, I like facing the Royals just because I have to bring my very best each and every time out."
In three starts against the Royals this year, Kazmir has been great. He's 1-1 with a 2.11 ERA, allowing three walks and striking out 14 batters in 21 1/3 innings. He made his Astros debut on July 24 at Kauffman Stadium and threw seven scoreless innings.
Kazmir has appeared in eight playoff games with Tampa Bay and the Angels -- going 1-2 with a 5.20 ERA in 36 1/3 innings.
"He's pitched very well against the Royals this year in three games," Hinch said. "This is a big ballpark for him to pitch in. It's a big stage. He's been there before, and left-handed pitching against their balanced lineup was something I looked heavily at last night on the plane [from New York following a 3-0 win over the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser].
"We didn't plan this out near as much as people think. You really are taking it day by day when you're in an elimination game against New York. Kaz has had a very, very good season. It hasn't been his best September, but as we get into October, you trust your players to come up in the biggest of moments."
Kazmir has struggled lately, going 0-5 with a 5.94 ERA in nine starts since Aug. 5.
"We're trying to find out what's happening and why he's struggled a little bit in a couple of starts," Hinch said. "Most of it's been a pitch or two. It hasn't been an entire game necessarily. … I'm always concerned when it comes to these types of games, but to beat a team in a five-game series, you're going to need a complete team to play well, and he's going to be a part of that."