DALLAS KEUCHEL: No. I think every start is big, whether it's a mid-season start or a Division Series start. This is one of the best teams to go up against just because they've had so much success the last couple years.
So my skill level is going to have to be at an all-time high, and I'm looking forward to the challenge.
Q. Your success at home is obviously very stunning for people who see it. What are the factors as a pitcher that go into maybe liking a place? The mound? The routine at home? What are the things maybe you think that contribute to your success here?
DALLAS KEUCHEL: I don't know. That's a really good question because I think last year my road stats were better. Just one of those things. I guess as the crowds have gotten better and the support has gotten better, I think we've all played better.
Obviously, the team's record is a whole lot better at home, including my success. And maybe it's the temperature, I don't know, the AC. I don't know. Set on 71.
It's just one of those things that it's -- 2015 was our year at home. So we're going to look to build on that, and hopefully we can give these fans some more success.
Q. Do you like it better closed than open? Does it matter?
DALLAS KEUCHEL: Midsummer, I prefer it closed, yes.
Q. How nice is it to be home? I know you played a couple playoff games on the road, but to bring playoff baseball back here for the first time in ten years for the fans who have kind of been through a lot in the past few years?
DALLAS KEUCHEL: Yeah, obviously it's my first time as well. I'm enjoying it, taking every moment as it comes. But there's been a lot more fans that have reached out to us, saying: We appreciate everything that you've done for us the last couple years.
That means a lot to me not only because I'm trying to get myself better, but the Astros as a whole and the city of Houston mean the world to me. I was drafted by them and I was in the Minor Leagues with them.
So I give everything I possibly can, and I know they are appreciative of that. And anything we can do to bring the city together, we'll do.
Q. Dallas, it seems like since that start in Arlington a few weeks back, we've labeled each one of your starts the biggest start of your career. Do you relish that, and can you tell us what you took from that start in Arlington, kind of what have you fixed since then?
DALLAS KEUCHEL: You guys can say the biggest start, but I think they're all big, like I said before. I was just trying to do too much. I was trying to make the perfect pitch every pitch. And that's now how you're going to win ballgames. We're only human beings, and I can -- sorry, there's a little gnat going on around here -- I can only make the perfect pitch whatever I prepare, and I prepare the best the four days prior.
So I let myself be a little more businesslike than having fun in Arlington, and that's not me. You've got to have fun whenever you're on the mound and pitching. And it wasn't fun from the get-go, and it kind of showed.
So the work is in between the starts, and the fun is when you get out there and see the crowd going crazy like it was in New York and then obviously tomorrow here.
Q. Dallas, typically, at least outwardly, nothing seems to rattle you. What are some keys for you that you don't let things get to you, even if there's runners on baseline, that kind of thing?
DALLAS KEUCHEL: I don't know, maybe I just hide my emotion in my beard. That's why I keep growing it out.
I don't know. I'm a little nervous inside, for sure, but at the same time the guys behind me are looking at me, so I'm not going to let them see if I'm nervous or anxious or whatnot. And I think some of the best do the same as well.
Q. The Royals are a pretty unusual modern baseball team. They walk the least of any team in baseball, but they also strike out far and away the least. Is it unusual to pitch to a team that's such a contact team in this day and age?
DALLAS KEUCHEL: You know, I feel like they are one of the most unique teams, and I think that's why they've had so much success. It seems like when I was pitching here against them this year, I had a few more strikeouts, and they were kind of sitting back a little bit more than they usually do.
And then in Kansas City, they were attacking more early. And I think I gave up four in the first, and I had like 16 pitches at the end of the first or something like that. So that really shows you what they're capable of doing in such a short span.
Their 1 through 9 is very deep, and it's one of the deepest lineups professionally that you're going to see out there. So I've got to keep grinding each at-bat. But it's going to fun, like I said.
And they're definitely unique because they do put the bat on the ball, but they're up there swinging. So they do have holes, I mean, everybody has holes, but I it seems like they cover certain holes whenever it seems like they wouldn't almost.
Q. How have you kind of, I don't know, embraced or liked the celebrity you've gained lately? The New Yorkers writing about your beard, Ned Yost just told us it's a really cool beard. Just like the way people are talking about you, it's kind of a new thing. You were -- couple years ago you were pretty anonymous outside of Houston. How has that been?
DALLAS KEUCHEL: I don't really know. I appreciate the support just because if they're supporting me, they're supporting the Astros. And I think Ned's a nice guy, so he's going to say that about anybody.
I mean, I think my beard's cool. It's got a great shape. I'm pretty pleased with it. I only let a certain number of people touch it, a few barbers around the league.
But I don't know. It's not just me, it's a lot of the other guys -- Altuve, Correa, Springer, McCullers, Velasquez. You name it. The better we get, I think the more publicity we're going to get.
And that comes with the territory. Most of the fans you see around the city are very welcoming and they're not trying to bombard you with a lot of stuff. It's just, hey, great job this year, keep it up, we appreciate everything you've done. That goes a long way with me and I know the others as well.
Q. Dallas, Ned Yost has talked a lot about just how much he enjoined interacting with you and working with you at the All-Star Game. I was just curious what your impressions of Ned were during those few days in Cincinnati.
DALLAS KEUCHEL: Ned was awesome. I actually met him in 1995 when the Braves won the World Series. A buddy's dad of mine, Charlie O'Brien, was on that team, and we went out to see him play, met all the guys, obviously, the three Hall of Famers from the pitching staff and then the coaching staff.
I don't really remember Ned then; I was only seven, so it was brief. But when I got to Cincinnati, I had a handwritten note for him saying I was the starter for the game. So I thought that was pretty cool.
And then just meeting him the next day, I think it was Monday, for our workout, he just seemed really gentle, really passionate about the game. And seemed like he was really in tune with not just his team but with other players as well.
Now, obviously A.J. being on the team was a little different because he wasn't going to wear me out physically for three or four innings, but it just seemed like he was taking care of our best interests, and I appreciated that.
Q. Dallas, with the roof closed tomorrow, it's probably going to pretty loud in there. Does that work to your advantage or disadvantage when you're on the mound pitching?
DALLAS KEUCHEL: I mean, home crowd, it can get as loud as it wants because I know it's behind me and it's not against me. So I'm sure I'll hear a little bit, and I'll appreciate any noise we can get. If that gives us a run or two or ten or five or whatever, I'm all for it.
Q. Dallas, A.J. pointed out to us we had to earn the right to come home and have this playoff game. It's been a heck of a road for you guys. Given that, how much do you just relish the opportunity to come out in front of your home fans and take part and lead your team tomorrow?
DALLAS KEUCHEL: It means the world because it seemed like nobody was giving us a shot. When we went on our last road trip to Seattle and Arizona, it was like you guys play sub out on the road, you're destined to fail. And it's like, well, we don't really care because we're going to play ball. Sure enough, we got in. And we've played well on the road the last two and a half weeks.
So it's kind of a reward. It really is. And I think we're going to give the fans what they want. We're going to be relaxed, I'll tell you that. We feel so comfortable here, it's unbelievable.
The guys -- it really is like a light switch before that last two-week road trip where on the road guys had no energy. If we got down a couple of runs, it was over. And then here, it doesn't matter. If we're up 10, we're going to put on 15. If we're down two, we're going to be up five at the end of the game.
Guys have so much energy here. And like I said before, it's based on the support that we get from the fans now.