Keuchel extends hot streak with four-hit gem
Lefty wins fourth straight start; Springer, Krauss belt two-run HRs
SEATTLE -- The confidence is growing on the mound for left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who's been pitching like one of the best in the game the last few weeks. And it's building at the plate for rookie George Springer, who's now the club's most feared hitter.
And the Astros are reaping the benefits.
Keuchel continued his dominance by throwing a complete game to win his fourth consecutive start, and Springer homered in his third game in a row -- a two-run, go-ahead blast in the sixth inning -- to send the Astros to a 4-1 win Sunday afternoon and a split of the four-game series at Safeco Field.
"The last two games have been great," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "Any time you play a four-game series, you want to win the series, but if you can get away with a split, especially on the road, that's always huge."
Keuchel (6-2, 2.55 ERA) threw his second complete game in three starts, improving to 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA in his last four outings. He shut out the Rangers on May 13 in Houston and came within an out of shutting out the Angels on Monday in Anaheim before being charged with a pair of runs after leaving with two outs in the ninth.
Against the Mariners, he struck out six, didn't walk a batter and allowed only four hits and an unearned run.
"The last time I faced these guys [April 21], I came out in the seventh and walked three guys in a row," Keuchel said. "I had that on my mind the whole time, and I just wanted to attack the zone. I was aggressive early and threw a lot of two-seams, and the last inning I threw a couple of cutters to some of the lefties that had never seen a cutter before during the game. They didn't hit enough of the ball."
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon wasn't particularly complimentary of Keuchel.
"I saw average stuff," he said. "We didn't swing the bats very good. At some point, you've got to stop giving credit to average pitchers. That becomes a broken record. At some point, we've got to start swinging the bats."
Porter, meanwhile, bristled when asked about McClendon's "average" comment.
"You look at the stretch at which he's been on, he's arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball right now," he said. "That's not to take anything away from anybody else, but the way he's been throwing the ball this last month or so, it's been pretty impressive."
The Astros managed a season-high 11 hits for the 12th time, led by red-hot Jose Altuve (2-for-4), Matt Dominguez (2-for-4) and Marc Krauss (2-for-4), whose two-run homer in the seventh inning off Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma (3-1) in essence put the game out of reach, considering how well Keuchel was pitching.
"I think when Dallas is out there, one run is plenty, especially with the way he's been throwing lately," Krauss said. "Having a couple of extra doesn't hurt, especially for him and how he attacks the zone. He didn't have to be afraid of maybe giving up a home run to tie it up. I think that kind of gave him that extra push maybe. He's been lights out. He's been everything you can ask for and more lately."
Springer's homer is the latest in an impressive power surge by the rookie, who hit a pair of two-run homers to lead the Astros to a 9-4 win Saturday. He has hit all seven of his home runs in the month of May to catch Dominguez for the team lead.
Springer homered Wednesday in Anaheim before missing the first two games of the Seattle series on Thursday and Friday with a strained hip flexor. He's batting .287 with seven homers and 20 RBIs since April 29.
"I'm just able to slow things down more and staying within myself, I guess, and not trying to go out and do something I can't do," he said. "I'm not trying to hit the eight-run home run anymore. I'm just going out and slowing down and trying to help the team win."
The only run Keuchel allowed Sunday came in the second inning, which began with strikeouts of Justin Smoak and Kyle Seager. Mike Zunino and Michael Saunders followed with hits to put runners at first and second, and Cole Gillespie hit a dribbler down the third-base line.
Keuchel darted off the mound to field the ball and threw wildly past first base, allowing Zunino to score an unearned run. Keuchel sent down the next 14 batters he faced and 21 of 22 to end the game. He threw 106 pitches.
"I started off with two strikeouts to start the inning and let my guard down a little bit, and with a team like that, it's not what you want to do," he said. "I made a bonehead throw. I felt I had enough time to make a good throw but kind of yanked it a little bit and was able to get [Brad] Miller out and go from there. Defense played a heck of a game, and obviously Springer and Krauss were huge today."