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Arizona can't deliver KO on Keuchel

Astros ace on the ropes, D-backs allow him to escape

HOUSTON -- The D-backs knew that Astros ace Dallas Keuchel was going to pose a tough challenge Saturday night, especially pitching in front of the home crowd at Minute Maid Park with many sporting beards and wearing shirts with his likeness on them.

Still, they had him on the ropes in the second inning, but he managed to limit the damage and was dominant after that as the Astros ended the D-backs' six-game winning streak by beating them, 9-2.

Control is usually not an issue for Keuchel, who came into the game with a 9-0 record and 1.13 ERA at home.

But in the second, he could not seem to hit his spots as he walked three, including one to force in a run.

The D-backs seemed to be one big hit away from blowing the game open, but after issuing a bases-loaded walk to Ender Inciarte, Keuchel got Nick Ahmed to ground out to end the inning.

Video: [email protected]: Inciarte plates Tomas on a bases-loaded walk

"When you have your shots against those No. 1 pitchers like he is, you've got to get it and to only get two of that is just not enough," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "When you have him on the ropes, you have to knock him out. And like a good No. 1 he came back and was really, really good after that."

Keuchel (13-5) did not allow a hit after the second, and in fact, the D-backs only got two baserunners over the next seven innings when Ahmed reached on an error and Carlos Hernandez drew a walk in the ninth against reliever Vincent Velazquez.

"You could tell he missed with his fastball," D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said of Keuchel in the second. "He walked Ender and [Cliff] Pennington and both of those he was missing with fastballs. He did a good job of making the adjustment, coming back with his breaking ball and also having better command of his fastball. He was able to get ahead and get you on his fastball and then mix it up with the offspeed stuff."

While Keuchel was putting things together, the wheels were coming off for Arizona starter Jeremy Hellickson, who came into the game with a 1.88 ERA over his past four starts.

Hellickson (7-7) retired the first batter of the fourth, but it would be the last out he would get.

After that out, the inning went double, error, hit by pitch, bases-loaded walk, grand slam, single, double. In all, five runs would score as the Astros took a commanding 7-2 lead.

"Just didn't have his control where he wanted to throw the ball," Hale said. "This is a tough lineup to navigate. They've got a lot of power, that's how they've made their name for themselves this year and you can't mistakes. It was just a tough night for him. He just wasn't on top of his game."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.
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