Ice in his veins: Keuchel grinds for OD win

Reigning Cy Young winner battles cold temps, 4 early walks before retiring final 11

April 5th, 2016

NEW YORK -- One of the coldest games in Astros history made for tough playing conditions Tuesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, where pitchers couldn't quite grip the ball as well as they'd like and hitters had to square up the ball to make it go.

That was the most logical explanation for the early-game control issues of reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, who uncharacteristically walked four batters in his first three innings of work before righting the ship to throw seven strong innings in the Astros' 5-3 win over the Yankees on Opening Day.

Keuchel, who shut out the Yankees for six innings in last year's AL Wild Card Game, entered the game with a 28-inning scoreless streak against the Yankees, including the playoff gem, but found himself in a 2-0 hole in the second following a two-run double by Starlin Castro. Keuchel came back to retire the final 11 batters he faced to earn the win when the Astros rallied for three runs in the eighth inning.

"It seems like baseball's not meant to be played in 30-degree weather," he said. "I grinded through and was able to put together my best pitches late, and a total team win. A few plays that saved me early, and I was very thankful for them. Gotta do everything you possibly can to get through that, and luckily I was able to get through seven today."

Keuchel had issued only four walks once in his previous 47 career starts (June 20 of last year at Seattle), and had held the Yankees to only two walks in 30 innings in his career.

"I was figuring some stuff out," he said. "I usually rub down the ball and use my sweat as a little bit of grip, but there was no sweat today. It was, 'Save yourself from the cold.' I did what I could, and like I said, those guys behind me made some good plays to get me out. I made some quality pitches at the end."

Keuchel said the ball almost had a chalky feel.

"A guy with movement, you like to get good finishes and good command on the pitches, and it just felt like I was all over the place," he said. "Really didn't know where to start it and where to end it."

Where it ended was another win for Keuchel, who improved to 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two career Opening Day starts. He's 4-1 with a 1.22 ERA in five career starts against the Yankees (regular season and postseason) and is the seventh consecutive Cy Young winner to throw at least six innings and allow two runs or fewer in his first start after winning the award.

"He finds ways to get his outs," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I think even the pitch that he gave up the two-run double was a good pitch, it just hit the line. Very much a Dallas Keuchel start with the exception of a few walks."