WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The journey back to dominance continued for Dallas Keuchel on Friday. The Astros' lefty starter worked four scoreless innings in a 5-4 win over the Braves at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.Keuchel allowed three hits, struck out two and did not walk a batter
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The journey back to dominance continued for Dallas Keuchel on Friday. The Astros' lefty starter worked four scoreless innings in a 5-4 win over the Braves at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Keuchel allowed three hits, struck out two and did not walk a batter in the outing, which included 42 pitches, 29 for strikes. He said he felt good afterward and probably could have gone another inning or two.
"We're still going to continue to progress and make sure the body is ready to go," said Keuchel, who is scheduled to make two more starts this spring.
It was the lefty's second successful Grapefruit League start. Keuchel went three scoreless innings in his first start on Sunday against Washington. That was his first game action since last August. The 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner was shut down with inflammation in his pitching shoulder, a move he said was a good one.
"An extra month of the offseason really benefited me, and it's just given me value to how much being healthy can help your performance," said Keuchel, who hopes to stretch out to six innings and keep the pitch count down over his final two starts of Spring Training.
Continuing to work on fastball command is the main goal right now.
"That never really stops in Spring Training," Keuchel said. "The more fastballs I can throw, the better the results usually are. I didn't really have full command today, but I got two more ground balls and mixed some offspeed in there. At this point in time, it's always fastball command."
Keuchel ended up with a quick nine-pitch first inning. But it didn't start out that way. He gave up a leadoff single to Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies, and after Chase d'Arnaud lined out to Derek Fisher in left field, the Astros turned a double play. First baseman Yulieski Gurriel fielded a sharp grounder, stepped on the bag and threw to shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who put the tag on Albies for the final out of the frame.
The "pitcher's best friend" proved true again in the second inning. After Keuchel gave up a one-out single, he helped himself out with the glove, snagging a one-hopper off the bat of Braves first baseman Matt Tuiasosopo before turning to start the 1-4-3 double play.
"Anytime I can get behind in a count and induce ground balls, it means I'm either making quality pitches or my fastball has late life," Keuchel said. "I like to think sometimes it has both, but today it was more late life than it was command."
He retired the side in order in the third, thanks to a nice catch by second baseman Tyler White on a blooper to shallow left field. Shifted behind second base, White scampered to his right and caught up to the short popup off the bat of Braves left fielder Adam Walker.
The Astros couldn't turn a double play in the fourth inning, although one was in order when d'Arnaud reached on a one-out infield single. But there was no need; Keuchel finished strong, striking out the final two batters he faced.
"I feel healthy, that's the biggest key," Keuchel said. "It took forever to warm up last year and to get going. It seemed like I struggled through every inning just to stay warm and make sure my body was loose."
Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com.