HOUSTON -- It was an unsurprising pitching duel between Houston's Dallas Keuchel and Kansas City's Danny Duffy, two ace left-handers, on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park. Then, it suddenly turned into a meltdown by Astros reliever Luke Gregerson, who was battered for six runs in an eighth-inning rally by
HOUSTON -- It was an unsurprising pitching duel between Houston's Dallas Keuchel and Kansas City's Danny Duffy, two ace left-handers, on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park. Then, it suddenly turned into a meltdown by Astros reliever Luke Gregerson, who was battered for six runs in an eighth-inning rally by the Royals, who came back to win, 7-3.
For the second night in a row, Alex Gordon delivered a clutch two-run double in the eighth, this one putting the Royals ahead, 3-2. After Lorenzo Cain blooped an RBI single to right, Eric Hosmer jolted a two-run homer to make it 6-2. Salvador Perez followed with another homer, chasing Gregerson, who threw just 16 pitches in one-third of an inning.
"I think the key part was Gordy driving in two runs," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He did it last night, and he did it again tonight. We talk all the time that one big hit can get you going, and that's exactly what happened."
• Shades of 2015: Royals rally late in Houston
Added Hosmer, "A hit like that, that just breaks the ice. Like I've been telling you, I think we've just been lacking that one big hit to really get things going. So that just broke the ice for everybody. You could just sense the energy change in the dugout. It just freed everybody up from that point on."
Keuchel was superb, giving up just one run on two hits over seven innings, while striking out four. Duffy also went seven innings, giving up two runs on eight hits, walking two and striking out three.
"Dallas did his job, that's a good game," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I thought he was in control. I thought getting him to [93 pitches] was enough for him, and it certainly did spoil the night for him."
Brian McCann gave the Astros a 1-0 lead in the third with a homer. McCann's shot to right, his second home run of the season, had an exit velocity of 100.5 mph with an estimated distance of 425 feet, according to Statcast™.
Royals third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert blasted an impressive home run into the Crawford Boxes in the fifth, his first of the season. Statcast™ measured the exit velocity at 108 mph with an estimated distance of 401 feet.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
He giveth, he taketh away: Keuchel showed why he has won three straight Gold Gloves with a terrific play in the fifth. Cuthbert's home run had cut Houston's lead to 2-1 when Paulo Orlando reached on an uncharacteristic throwing error by Keuchel. Orlando reached second on the play and went to third on a sacrifice by Alcides Escobar. With the infield in, Christian Colon rapped a hard one-hopper headed for center, but Keuchel cut it off, held the runner and threw Colon out. Keuchel then got Andrew Butera to ground out, preserving the lead.
"It's like he's moving before we even hit the ball," Gordon said. "It's no secret why he wins Gold Gloves."
Added Yost, "He's one of the best fielders in the game. The one he missed, he would have had if he hadn't slipped." More >
Big twin killing: Duffy got into trouble in the fourth after walking Carlos Correa with one out. Carlos Beltran and Yulieski Gurriel followed with infield hits to load the bases. Marwin Gonzalez poked an RBI single to left, making it 2-0. But Duffy prevented the Astros from breaking the game open by inducing McCann to roll into a 4-6-3 double play.
"I thought I threw the ball better today than I did in Minnesota," Duffy said. "I was getting ground balls that whole inning. But they were hitting them where they ain't."
"What series in Minnesota? The one I don't even care to think about? We had a bad series. It happens. You move on. And we've won two games in a row against a very good team." -- Yost, when asked about bouncing back from getting swept by the Twins
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• In allowing two hits over seven innings, Keuchel became the fourth pitcher in MLB history to pitch at least seven innings and allow two hits or fewer in each of his first two games of a season, joining Nolan Ryan (1979), Tom Phoebus (1970) and Lon Warneke (1934).
• Hosmer's home run in the eighth had an exit velocity of 111 mph, according to Statcast™, the second-hardest-hit ball by a Royals player this season. Hosmer also has the hardest -- a 118.1 mph groundout.
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
Hinch unsuccessfully challenged an out call at second base in the bottom of the fifth. Duffy picked off Jake Marisnick trying to steal second, but Hinch thought Marisnick reached second base before second baseman Colon applied the tag. After a review of 2 minutes, 18 seconds, the call was confirmed for the second out.
Yost successfully challenged a call at second base that resulted in a runner ruled out on an illegal slide to end the bottom of the seventh. Yost challenged a potential violation of the slide rule, which was then called on Marisnick, turning the initial fielder's choice call into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
Royals: Right-hander Nathan Karns makes his first Royals start in the series finale with the Astros at 1:10 p.m. CT on Sunday, which also concludes the season-opening, six-game road trip. Karns, who the Royals acquired in the offseason from the Mariners for outfielder Jarrod Dyson, made a relief appearance Wednesday and gave up four runs in two-thirds of an inning.
Astros: Coming off an impressive season debut, Lance McCullers makes his second start of the year in Sunday's series finale with the Royals at 1:10 p.m. CT. McCullers tossed six innings of one-run ball against the Mariners on Tuesday. The right-hander last faced the Royals in Game 4 of the 2015 American League Division Series, when he was in line to get the win before the Royals rallied from behind for a memorable victory.
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Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.
Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.