Not a shave situation: Keuchel blanks Yanks
Astros ace whiffs career-high 12 in second shutout and third complete game of '15
HOUSTON -- The conversation was brief.
"How you feelin'?" Astros manager A.J. Hinch asked Dallas Keuchel in the ninth inning of Thursday's 4-0 victory over the Yankees.
"Dandy," Keuchel responded.
"Finish the game," Hinch shot back. "I want to go home."
With the Yankees' Jose Pirela at the plate representing the tying run, Keuchel sent his manager home. He got the left fielder to bounce out to third on a changeup, stranding the bases loaded and completing a marvelous six-hit shutout in which he set a career high with 12 strikeouts. For Houston's ace, it was his third complete game and second shutout of the season.
Supporting Keuchel's gem was fellow All-Star hopeful Jose Altuve, who also flashed his All-Star credentials with an impressive three-hit performance and a pair of steals, increasing his American League lead to 20.
Pitching during the debut of "Keuchel's Korner," an Astros promotion that gives fans who buy tickets for Keuchel's starts in sections 105 and 106 a T-shirt and a commemorative beard, Houston's ace lefty was dazzling.
"I haven't been here a long time, but that's probably as good as I've seen Dallas Keuchel," Hinch said. "His ball was moving all over the place tonight, which made them have to be aggressive and he had really, really good put away pitches that ended at-bats in his favor."
Until the Yankees loaded the bases in the ninth, Keuchel did not allow a runner to second base. He retired 15 straight until Alex Rodriguez laced a two-out single to left-center to begin the ninth-inning rally.
Rodriguez was a strikeout victim three times, as was two-hole hitter Chase Headley. Eight of Keuchel's 12 whiffs came against the top four of the Yankees' lineup.
"He made me look as silly as I've looked all year," Rodriguez said. "He just really handled me well all night. Struck me out with a fastball, a slider and a changeup."
Keuchel had an uncharacteristic outing in his last start, when he walked a season-high four and allowed a season-high five runs in a 6-3 loss to the Mariners.
After that start, in which he nibbled on the corner of the strike zone but couldn't seem to harness his command, Keuchel said he realized his demeanor on the mound could have been the issue.
"I was able to calm down, seems like division games I get a little too amped up for," Keuchel said. "I was able to do that and find my groove there."
Keuchel also contended he wasn't fatigued in the ninth, though he was "getting there," especially after his four-pitch walk to Mark Teixeira.
Still, Keuchel was adamant Hinch knew not to take him out.
"It's hard to take Dallas Keuchel out of games," Hinch said. "Especially when he's in control, in command and facing the tying run. But it was his game to finish."