Keuchel fires 8 scoreless as Astros blank Royals
HOUSTON -- Auditioning for the starting nod in the All-Star Game in front of American League manager Ned Yost, ace Dallas Keuchel fired eight shutout innings and got just enough run support from George Springer's two-run homer off the foul pole in the third inning as the Astros secured a series win with a 4-0 win over the Royals on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
Jose Altuve added a run-scoring double in the fifth, but by then, Keuchel was well on his way to his 10th win of the season. Now a 10-game winner in back-to-back seasons, Keuchel worked around two doubles in the first two innings to strand six and strike out seven. The lefty is now the first Astros pitcher since Roy Oswalt in 2005 to win 10 games before the All-Star break.
"Early on I had some pretty good sink and late life," Keuchel said. "Just roll with that and then later on it was a changeup and slider. With a few [strikeouts] with that and I mean I was trying to force some early contact. I know they like to swing the bat and just try to use it to my advantage."
"Deep down inside there's always a little bit of interest that's piqued when things like that are brought up but it's not a huge motivation for him," added manager A.J. Hinch, when asked whether pitching in front of Yost fires up Keuchel. "He gets after it every five days and I think that he does that trying to be the best more than trying to accomplish anything outside of a win."
Lorenzo Cain was a two-out mystery to Keuchel, going 3-for-4 with three two-out hits, but the rest of his Kansas City lineup mustered only four hits off the Houston starter. Royals starter Danny Duffy faced the minimum through his first 2 2/3 innings, but he allowed an 0-2 single to nine-hole hitter Marwin Gonzalez in the third before Springer launched his homer in the next at-bat.
"I was really pleased with the effort and focus most of the game, they just hit a couple mistakes," Duffy said. "But I think I was most upset about hanging that slider to their nine-hole batter [Gonzalez] and it came back to hurt me ... with maybe the best hitter [Springer] on that team."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Galloping Gattis: Evan Gattis, at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, cranked a triple to the top of Tal's Hill in the fourth -- sending Cain scrambling and tripping to try and secure the ball. The triple was the big man's club-leading fourth of the season -- he had one career three-bagger entering 2015 -- and his second in the last three games.
"Yeah, wouldn't have predicted it, but whatever, I'll take 'em," Gattis said. "If I'm hitting the ball hard, I'm happy. Of course, it'd be nice to jog a couple. I haven't hit a home run, I've got like one in I don't know how many weeks, but I'm glad that I'm hitting the ball well and that we've taken two of the last two from Kansas City."
Cain is able: After missing two games with a hamstring injury, Cain didn't miss a beat in his return to the lineup. The center fielder cranked out three hits, all with two out, in a 3-for-4 night at the plate. His infield hit in the first inning could have led to a run, but Kendrys Morales' double hopped over the fence and held Cain at third. Cain doubled in the third and fifth innings, but he was stranded at second each time. More >
Springer save: Springer's homer off the left field foul pole in the third snapped an 0-for-8 skid. For a second straight night, though, it was his glove that left the Minute Maid Park crowd abuzz. He misjudged Omar Infante's rope to left-center in the seventh, but Springer was able to steady himself and fully extend for the ball, saving extra bases and sending Keuchel back to the dugout with a smirk. More >
Duffing it out: Duffy is still working his way back after a DL stint, but his ability to extend Tuesday's outing may pay dividends. Despite allowing four runs, the lefty improved on his last start by two full innings and nearly 10 pitches. Better yet, he helped out a fatigued Kansas City bullpen -- which had accounted for 13 1/3 innings in the previous four games.
"For the most part, he pitched really well," Yost said. "He elevated a couple pitches they just didn't miss. He still got us two deep into the seventh inning."
"I'm the guy that's pinch-running for him all the time so maybe I'm underestimating his blazing speed. He gets after it and he hits the ball to the deepest part of the ballpark. That's the baseball explanation. There are a lot of things that puzzle me about this game and I guess that's one of them." -- Hinch, on Gattis' club-leading four triples
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Tuesday was the 28th consecutive start that Keuchel has gone at least six innings -- the longest active streak in the Majors.
Royals: Right-hander Edinson Volquez starts the finale of the three-game road set on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. The Royals have won nine of the last 10 games that Volquez has started, and he's 8-4 with a 3.18 ERA.
Astros: Looking for the first decision of his Major League career, right-hander Vincent Velasquez gets the ball for Wednesday's finale against Kansas City at Minute Maid Park. Velasquez is one of only 10 pitchers in Major League history to take a no-decision in each of his first four starts.
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