Astros stalled on road to postseason clinch

Offense held to five singles; Keuchel OK after taking liner to head

September 20th, 2018

HOUSTON -- The Astros couldn't overcome a shaky first inning from left-hander and were shut down by the Mariners in a 9-0 loss on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park in the final meeting of the season between the two American League West clubs.

Keuchel, who had a 6.68 ERA in the first inning this season entering Wednesday, allowed five of the first six batters to reach, with RBI hits by and leading to a 3-0 Seattle lead that a punchless Astros offense couldn't overcome.

"That was one of our few blowout games," manager AJ Hinch said. "They came out and ambushed Dallas. Within the first five pitches, we were in a mess and never really recovered from it. They continued to tack on, and we didn't have an answer tonight. Kind of a weird night for us. You just have to chalk it up to a bad night."

The Mariners took two of three from the Astros in the series and 10 of 19 from Houston this season, making them the only AL West club to have a winning record against the Astros in 2018. Houston began the day with a five-game lead over the second-place A's -- who defeated the Angels -- and maintained a magic number of two to clinch a postseason spot.

Keuchel (11-11) lasted five innings in what could be his final start at Minute Maid Park with the Astros. A free agent at the end of the season, he went 4-6 with a 3.90 ERA in 16 home starts this year and was 1-3 with a 4.81 ERA in five starts against the Mariners.

"I haven't really had a lot of success against the Mariners this season," Keuchel said. "It's kind of a coin flip with them right now. I tried to put my best foot forward and still gave up three in the first. I settled down. Just the way it goes."

Seager's RBI single in the first glanced off Keuchel's head but didn't faze Keuchel at all. In fact, he sent down the next 12 batters before issuing a one-out walk in the fifth to Mitch Haniger, who scored on a double by Cano one out later. Seager took reliever Brad Peacock deep to start the sixth for a 6-0 lead.

"I had a few concussions in high school from football and stuff, and I immediately knew how I was going to feel," Keuchel said. "I felt fine. ... We talked some stuff over and I really told them I was fine, and to give me a few pitches. I wasn't going to push it by any means if I was groggy or lightheaded. Everything checked out well."

Seven Mariners pitchers held the Astros to five singles and dealt them their ninth shutout loss. It was the 12th time this season in 152 games that the Astros did not record an extra-base hit.

"I know that's kind of a thing this year, where everybody is using a lot of different pitchers, and it's a lot easier to do it in September," Hinch said. "It's a challenge. It's no different than when you run into a spot start or you run into a game where they could utilize their whole bullpen, depending on their schedule, so we just had no answer tonight. I don't have a lot of answers, and I'm not going to make one up."


The 99-mph liner that struck Keuchel in the head caused enough of a concern for the Astros that Hinch and head athletic trainer Jeremiah Randall went to the mound even though Keuchel seemed fine and ultimately threw another four innings. Still, the Astros put Keuchel through some tests throughout the game and will continue to monitor him to make sure he doesn't start having symptoms.

"He was completely fine when we got out there," Hinch said. "Usually, you expect him to be a little shell-shocked or kind of curious. He was perfectly fine, knew where it hit him. He was evaluated on the mound. We chose to leave him in. For a couple of innings there, I kind of regretted leaving him in, because you just don't know when somebody gets hit in the head that way. We were lucky that we were home, because we had doctors every inning checking on him. ... He's been symptom-free. We've run our battery of tests and will continue to evaluate him for any sort of concussion or anything like that. I hesitate to watch the video, because it could have been extremely, extremely terrible for him."

Said Seager: "Nobody likes that stuff. Luckily, he was fine. He didn't even come out of the game. Thankfully, he's all right, but that's scary. I don't like that. When I saw the ball going back at him, I couldn't tell if his glove touched it first or not, but I could definitely see it hit him in the head. You could kind of hear the thud a little. It was terrible. Thankfully, he was OK. He went five innings, so he was good."


"Honestly, no. I've had some good runs here. Hopefully, there's a few left for us. That means we're doing well in the playoffs. ... It's not something I want to think about right now." -- Keuchel, when asked if he thought about Wednesday being his final Astros game at Minute Maid Park


The Astros will send right-hander (14-5, 2.88 ERA) to the mound to open a three-game series against the Angels at 7:10 p.m. CT Friday at Minute Maid Park. Cole has already struck out a career-high 260 batters in 187 1/3 innings and is on pace for his second consecutive 200-inning performance. Lefty (9-9, 3.97 ERA) will start for the Angels.