Dallas Keuchel stepped up Friday night to be the ace Astros fans have waited for all season. It could not have happened at a better time. Last year's Cy Young Award winner tossed a three-hit shutout at the Rangers in a 5-0 triumph to push the Astros back within 5-1/2 games of the AL West lead. More significantly, it put another crack in the wall that says Houston can't compete with the Rangers who lost to the Astros for just the second time in 11 meetings.
Keuchel: Nine zeroes
(c) Associated Press
The slumbering Houston hitters woke up long enough to put four tallies on the board against Martin Perez for the difference-maker. Jake Marisnick opened with a single and, one out later, Alex Bregman walked. Jose Altuve cracked an RBI double to left then Carlos Correa followed with a two-run single to right. After a base hit by Evan Gattis, Tyler White singled for the fourth Houston run.
The Astros' final run came off another Altuve double in the seventh.
Keuchel did not give fans a hint of a brilliant night in the first inning. Shin-Soo Choo started the game with a single but was erased on a double play. Newly-acquired Carlos Beltran doubled, Adrian Beltre walked and a wild pitch advanced both but Keuchel coaxed Rougned Odor to bounce out to first which kept the Rangers off the scoreboard.
The Rangers did not get another hit until the ninth when Beltre smacked a two-out double just before Odor tapped out to end it. 32,800 dynamically-priced fans watched it in person.
Saturday will feature the return of Lucas Harrell (1-0 with Arlington, 3-2 overall) who left Houston bemoaning defensive shifting while becoming less and less effective. He'll be opposed by Daddy Doug Fister (10-7) who is returning from paternity leave. The Astros sent Brad Peacock back to AAA Fresno in order to re-activate Fister for Saturday's 6:10 Central contest.
Fister is 1-1 this season against the Rangers and had the only win for the club prior to Friday night's victory.