With their American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals tied at a game apiece, the Houston Astros got what they expected from ace Dallas Keuchel, a terrific start, on their way to a 4-2 win Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
Over seven innings, the American League’s Cy Young Award favorite surrendered just one run on five hits with seven strikeouts, improving to 16-0 in 2015 at home.
In two postseason starts, Keuchel has allowed one run over 13 innings as the Astros are a win away from advancing to their first ever American League Championship Series.
Only one man reached second base as the game’s first three inning went by without anyone crossing home plate, but that changed in the fourth. The tenth pitch of the at bat that started the frame to Lorenzo Cain was shot over the Crawford Boxes to put Kansas City in front.
For four innings, Edison Volquez mowed through the Astros allowing one hit, striking out six, but things changed after he struck out Carlos Gomez to start the fifth. He walked Luis Valbuena, then, Chris Carter doubled him to third. Jason Castro followed, and put the Astros in front when he rolled a single up the middle.
Keuchel stranded the tying run in scoring position in the sixth, and the Astros picked up some insurance when Gomez singled home George Springer with two out in the bottom of the inning.
Kansas City threatened against Keuchel in the seventh. He walked Alex Rios to start the inning, but retired the next two bringing up Cain, who he had walked intentionally his last time up, following the home run. With Tony Sipp and Will Harris up in the bullpen, Astros manager A.J. Hinch went out to the mound, but left Keuchel in the game. On his 124th pitch of the afternoon, he struck out Cain with a 90 mile per hour 2-seam fast ball.
Carter started the bottom of the seventh inning with his first career playoff home run, giving him his first 3-hit game of the season. After Tony Sipp punched out two of the three he faced in the eighth, Luke Gregerson finished the inning by fanning Salvador Perez.
Gregerson allowed a home run to Alex Gordon to start the ninth, but after a 1-out single to Alcides Escobar he got Ben Zobrist to ground into a fielder’s choice and struck out Cain to end the game.
Castro and Castro combined for four hits in six at bats, and drove home three runs.
Colby Rasmus reached base all four times, walking three times.
Volquez went 5.2 runs, allowing three runs, and was tagged with the loss.
Monday afternoon, the Astros will play for a spot in the American League Championship series when they send rookie Lance McCullers to the mound against Royals game one starter Yordano Ventura.Follow @AdamSpolane