HOUSTON -- Just because Dallas Keuchel throws left-handed and certainly not as hard as Astros right-handed rotation mates Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers doesn't mean the former American League Cy Young Award winner can't follow their lead.
Keuchel has been throwing up in the zone a little more with his four-seam fastball this season, allowing him to change opponents' eye levels and swings paths. And when he's changing speeds as masterfully as he did in Sunday's 6-1 over the Rangers at Minute Maid Park, he's difficult to hit.
Keuchel struck out a season-high eight batters over seven scoreless innings and Evan Gattis and Carlos Correa homered for the second game in a row as the Astros won for the fifth time in six games. The Astros held the Rangers to one run in each of three games en route to a series win.
"We've got four good right-handed starters that can elevate the four-seam, and I can do the same, but to a lesser extent," Keuchel said. "It's been helping me, and it's going to be a staple of my arsenal for the next four or five months."
Astros manager AJ Hinch lauded the way Keuchel changed speeds with his fastball and changeup and how his breaking ball got better as the game went on. He's thrown at least seven innings in four consecutive starts.
"He just knew he could throw the ball where he wanted to and at the speed he wanted to, and that's a very good strength of Dallas when he can mess and disrupt timing of a hitter," Hinch said.
Keuchel (3-5) allowed only three hits, including back-to-back one-out singles in the first inning, and walked just one, but he was in control of the Rangers' lineup, retiring 20 of the final 22 batters he faced. The lefty has allowed three runs or fewer in seven of his eight starts this year, lowering his ERA to 3.10. Astros starters have a 2.44 ERA this year, which is best in the Majors.
"All five of us are very competitive, so that helps out just being able to watch and see how the other four go about their business," Keuchel said. "The elevated four-seam has been a great pitch for Gerrit and Justin and Charlie, but that doesn't mean I can't throw it, either. I don't throw 98. But it does change eye level and give me a better feel of what they're looking at."
Houston chased Rangers starter Matt Moore (1-5) after scoring three runs in the third inning, capped by the third homer of the season off the bat of Gattis. Correa drilled a two-run homer in the seventh inning -- his seventh -- to stretch the lead to 5-0.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Gattis goes deep: Gattis' third-inning homer marked the first time since Sept. 11-12, 2016, that he has homered in back-to-back games. He also extended his hitting streak to a season-long five games, during which he's hitting .353. Gattis, whose homer traveled 400 feet according to Statcast™, said he's been trying to hit the ball to right field more during batting practice to help improve his timing.
"It's nice whenever we're clicking on all cylinders, but we don't have to have nine guys just absolutely red-hot to win" Gattis said. "It's nice when we get at least a bulk of our team going. If a guy's struggling out there, it's not as big of a deal."
Jose Altuve went 0-for-13 in the three-game series against the Rangers.
HE SAID IT
"I heard it was a decent pitch. I told J.V. to get ready for some heat. She throws a lot harder than I do." -- Keuchel, on his mother, Teresa, being among the Astros' moms throwing out a ceremonial first pitch on Mother's Day. Justin Verlander caught the pitch because Keuchel was warming up in the bullpen
Lance McCullers (5-1, 3.72 ERA) will get the start for the Astros in Monday's 9:07 p.m. CT series opener against the Angels in Anaheim. Since giving up eight runs in his April 11 outing at Minnesota, McCullers is 4-0 with a 1.97 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in his last five starts. Andrew Heaney (1-2, 4.78) will start for the Angels.