Keuchel's glove work key to earning 16th win
HOUSTON -- The remains of Franklin Gutierrez's shattered bat flung straight in the air, coming dangerously close to landing on Dallas Keuchel, who was too busy navigating the bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth inning of a tie game to notice where the wood would land.
"If it stuck me in the neck, it was going to stick me in the neck," Keuchel said. "I was going to try to get the out."
He did, fielding the grounder and throwing to catcher Hank Conger to start a 1-2-3 double play before striking out Mark Trumbo on four pitches to escape the jam unscathed.
It paved the way for his offense to clobber two home runs in the home half of the inning -- solo shots from Jed Lowrie and Hank Conger -- giving the Astros a lead they'd never relinquish en route to an 8-3 victory over the Mariners on Monday night.
"Just watching [Keuchel] every start, he takes outs when they're given to him," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch after Keuchel's American League-leading 16th win. "He initiates that little soft contact. I think he fields his position well. The double play was obviously the key play of the game."
Keuchel assured nothing was off in the fourth, instead deferring credit to the meat of the Mariners' order laying off good pitches and blaming himself for not being able to escape while ahead in the count. He issued two of his six hits in the inning -- both coming after going ahead in the count -- sandwiched around a walk to load the bases.
A reigning Gold Glove Award winner, Keuchel takes pride in the defensive agility he shows each start, though it sometimes goes unnoticed by the gaudy stats he continues to pad with each start inside Minute Maid Park.
His win Monday made him one of eight pitchers in the last century to start a season 12-0 or better at home. He tied Danny Darwin's Astros record by winning his 13th straight home decision, and extended his own franchise record by going six innings or longer for a 38th straight start.
"Any time you're talking about pitcher defense, I think most people might roll their eyes at it," Hinch said. "I think when people watch Dallas on a daily basis, start by start, he creates a lot of outs. And it's a big part of his ability to stay in games a long time."
Keuchel, who also made a leaping stab of Robinson Cano's grounder to begin the second, always deflects questions about his home success, but his defensive prowess elicits a more forthright response.
"I got a Gold Glove last year, and I was pretty excited about that," Keuchel said. "Trying to get another one. Or a few."