Houston (CBS HOUSTON) — On the heels of a remarkable 2015 season that ended with an American League Cy Young honor, Dallas Keuchel was thought to be due for a regression.
Sunday cemented that his 2016 start is well beyond that. It’s verging on a disaster, especially when the Rangers are involved.
Texas hammered Keuchel early and often, taking down the lefty for the fourth time in five tries as the Rangers cruised to a 9-2 win and a series sweep on Sunday in Minute Maid Park.
Keuchel was Texas’s target this time, but the dominance of the Astros continues to run deep. The Rangers are 6-0 vs. Houston this season and 19-6 dating back to the beginning of the 2015 season. Houston is 97-86 against everyone else during that span.
“They’ve just beat the hell out of us,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “They’ve come into our ballpark, into their ballpark, and just beat us. … Yeah, I’m tired of losing to them.
“We’ve got find a new approach against them and see if we can make amends.”
Texas punished Keuchel for five runs in a defining third inning, buoyed by Adrian Beltre’s two-run double. Keuchel didn’t help himself, hitting the first batter of the frame with a pitch and later walking a batter to extend the inning. Four of the five runs came with two outs in the decisive frame.
“Just not making pitches with two outs,” Keuchel said. “It’s very frustrating because I feel like I had some good stuff today, and it showed early. … If I show up on a few pitches here and there, it’s a totally different ballgame. It just seems like that’s the way it’s going right now.”
The Rangers added a pair of RBI singles in the ensuing innings, finally ending Keuchel’s afternoon after six innings and seven runs allowed. It was just his second loss in Minute Maid since August 2014.
He hasn’t found the building, or any venue this season, as accommodating as he did in 2015, when he allowed just 21 earned runs in 18 starts across 129 1/3 innings during an unbeaten home season. This year? He’s already surrendered 14 runs in 26 1/3 innings through four starts.
And the Rangers have his number lately. In his past four starts dating to last September in Arlington, he’s allowed 23 runs in 23 2/3 innings (8.75 ERA) to Texas, with 35 hits and a 1-3 record in those four games.
“Ball is up, in hitter’s counts,” Keuchel said in his diagnosis. “They’ve done a good job of taking advantage of the mistakes pitcher’s throw. I was the one that gave it up, so it’s very frustrating.”
Teams have started to figure him out in 2016, hammering his offspeed pitches and laying off his stuff on the edge of the plate. It has led to a 2-6 mark out the gate and a 5.92 ERA through 10 starts.
“The frustrating part about it is he’s a good pitcher, and I don’t think he’s enjoying the success he deserves,” Hinch said. “Some of that is the league adjusting to it a little bit and making it more difficult and some of it is him overcoming these hurdles.
“I don’t like looking up there and seeing our best guy struggle.”
Offensively, the Astros didn’t do much for Keuchel, either.
Evan Gattis was the lone bright spot, cranking a solo shot in the sixth inning. Since returning from a Minor-League stint to build up his catching, the slugger has three homers in six games, recording a hit in five of them.
The Astros are now just 17-29 and 10 games out of first place in the American League West as the 50-game mark approaches. Houston has an off day on Monday before hosting Baltimore for a three-game set this week, starting with Doug Fister on the mound for Tuesday night’s series opener.