Astros manager A.J. Hinch said before the game that Keuchel, who had been out the past eight weeks with neck discomfort, would be on a pitch count. But Hinch didn't specify what it would be, simply saying Keuchel's efficiency would be a factor.
"Clearly a couple 30-pitch innings are hard to overcome," Hinch said. "But the stuff got a little bit better. I think he felt good, he just kind of ran out of pitches. We were hoping to be in the 75-80 range over five innings -- it happened over three."
Keuchel threw 32 pitches in a scoreless first inning -- the most he's thrown in one inning this season -- and threw 31 in the second, including a hanging slider that Nicholas Castellanos belted for a three-run home run.
In total, Keuchel allowed six hits, three earned runs and three walks. His 57 percent strike rate was the lowest of his 12 starts this year.
"Probably a little tentative on my part trying to make the perfect pitch," Keuchel said. "I'd felt good in my rehab starts. … Probably just a product of me thinking it was just going to continue to be there instead of really making sure I'm polished before the game and ready to go."
According to Statcast™, Keuchel didn't throw a single pitch above the strike zone. Yet he struggled to keep the ball over the plate as he peppered the bottom of the zone while the Tigers laid off most of his below-the-zone offerings.
Brad Peacock, who posted a 2.93 ERA over his past 11 starts before returning to the bullpen on Friday, replaced Keuchel to begin the fourth and worked four solid innings of two-run ball to pick up his ninth win of the season.
Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.