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'Vintage' Keuchel keeps rolling in start vs. Nats

Lefty commands fastball, throws five scoreless frames while striking out two
MLB.com @basebollie

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- By nearly every indication, Dallas Keuchel is prepared for the 2018 regular season to begin. Thursday's 12-3 victory over the Nationals was just the latest sign the left-hander is ready.

Keuchel, facing several of the Nationals' regulars, cruised through five scoreless innings to lower his spring ERA to 1.74. He scattered four hits and a walk while striking out two, but it was his ability to limit hard contact that had Astros manager A.J. Hinch referring to what he saw as "vintage Dallas."

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- By nearly every indication, Dallas Keuchel is prepared for the 2018 regular season to begin. Thursday's 12-3 victory over the Nationals was just the latest sign the left-hander is ready.

Keuchel, facing several of the Nationals' regulars, cruised through five scoreless innings to lower his spring ERA to 1.74. He scattered four hits and a walk while striking out two, but it was his ability to limit hard contact that had Astros manager A.J. Hinch referring to what he saw as "vintage Dallas."

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"Dallas was really good," Hinch said. "He could locate today pretty effectively. I liked how he could sequence his pitches a little bit better today. He had the long layoff between the fourth and fifth inning, but did a good job of getting three ground balls to [Alex] Bregman."

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Keuchel said after the game he was debating whether or not to come back out for the fifth, but ultimately decided to give it a go to simulate a regular-season situation.

"I had the option to shut it down or go back out and I wanted to go back out just because that could happen at any point during the course of the season," Keuchel said.

Keuchel made quick work of his matchups with Victor Robles, Ryan Raburn and Wilmer Difo, retiring each Washington hitter on one pitch.

Keuchel has allowed nine hits and struck out 10 in 10 1/3 innings this spring and attributes his success to the authority of his fastball. The 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner says he's still trying to master the feel for his offspeed pitches before Opening Day.

"I thought the fastball command was really good and that's what I was hoping to see," Keuchel said. "I'm still working on the offspeed [pitch]. I haven't really introduced it a lot during the five-day process. So before the next two starts I'll probably be throwing some more offspeed to try and get a feel for that."

"He's a perfectionist by nature," Hinch said. "It doesn't surprise me. He's going to want to fine-tune everything, but the soft contact on the ground is very vintage Dallas, so it's good to see."

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.

Houston Astros, Dallas Keuchel