Keuchel turns in impressive All-Star audition
HOUSTON -- Though he's constantly reminded about the growing list of accolades he's accruing, ace Dallas Keuchel maintains none of it matters.
Not his 2.03 ERA, which is now the lowest in the American League. Not his back-to-back 10-win seasons after mustering only nine in his first two seasons combined.
And, no, there wasn't any special emphasis on Tuesday's start -- where he fired eight innings of shutout ball in the Astros' 4-0 win over the Royals at Minute Maid Park.
Royals and American League All-Star manager Ned Yost is tasked with choosing between Keuchel and a handful of other candidates as the starter for the Midsummer Classic.
"It doesn't mean anything to me," Keuchel said, "until the end of the year when we're in the playoffs hopefully."
Keuchel relied on his changeup and slider for early, soft contact, inducing 15 ground-ball outs in his eight innings, to go with seven strikeouts.
The lefty has now thrown a season-high 18 consecutive scoreless innings, eclipsing his previous mark of 15 1/3 earlier this season. Keuchel is also the first Astros pitcher since Roy Oswalt in 2005 to notch 10 wins before the All-Star break.
"He utilized both sides of the plate real effectively," Yost said. "We couldn't pick up any patterns. We couldn't gauge him. He was changing speeds. He didn't give us anything up in the zone to hit. He pitched a great game."
Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who will serve on Yost's coaching staff in the All-Star Game, pulled Keuchel after eight innings, sensing some fatigue after 106 pitches and allowing only one runner to reach third base.
Maintaining the need to manage for the long term, Hinch said he mirrored Keuchel in that, yes, the shutout would have been nice given the moment, but it's hardly a motivational factor with playoff aspirations becoming more realistic.
"The recognition is nice," Hinch said. "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. 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."