Keuchel sharp, looks ready for regular season

Astros ace allows just three hits, strikes out five in five shutout innings vs. Mets

Keuchel sharp, looks ready for regular season

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Dallas Keuchel appears to be ready for Opening Day.

The Astros' ace and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner fired five scoreless innings and allowed three hits and one walk while striking out five batters in an 8-5 win over the Mets on Thursday afternoon at Tradition Field.

"He was pretty sharp with all of his pitches," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He stayed pretty focused. There were some long innings in there for him, some long delays. As usual, he was prepared and ready to go."

Astros Spring Training information

Keuchel, who threw 62 pitches, will start the Grapefruit League finale March 30 against the Phillies before taking the ball April 4 against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. That's where he beat the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game last October.

He was in Cy Young form Thursday, pitching out of trouble in the first and then cruising. Curtis Granderson led off with a triple, and David Wright followed with a walk to put runners on the corners. Keuchel came back to strike out Yoenis Cespedes and got Lucas Duda to hit into a double play.

Keuchel escapes a jam

"It's encouraging that I kind of found a rhythm after those three pretty lackluster pitches to Granderson," Keuchel said. "Even though I walked David, I really felt like my pitches were there, and against Cespedes I was able to make some quality pitches and go from there."

Keuchel hopes to reach 100 pitches when he faces the Phillies next week. He'll then have four days of rest before getting the call on Opening Day for the second straight year. He's not concerned much about pitch counts.

"Going up and down and sitting for five or 10 minutes at a time takes more toll on me than the pitch count," he said.

When asked if he was focusing on defending his Cy Young Award, Keuchel said that's not the proper mindset.

"I don't think about anything but a World Series championship," he said.

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.