Dallas Keuchel returned to the site of his successful big league debut on Tuesday and tossed seven innings of five-hit ball as Houston scored early to arrest the Rangers, 5-3, at Global Warming Park in Arlington. That snapped a three-game losing streak. Meanwhile, Seattle's eighth straight win kept them just a half-game behind the Astros in the AL West.
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(c) Associated Press
After Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Charlie Morton came up empty in St. Pete, it was a boost to get such a solid outing from the iffy Keuchel who fanned seven. Chris Devenski struggled in relief before Hector Rondon escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and then shut down the Rangers in the ninth for his sixth save.
Before the game, the Astros announced catcher Brian McCann would have surgery on his aching right knee and be out indefinitely. Then the other catcher, Max Stassi, was hit by a pitch in the first inning and had to leave the game. So, before you could say "now catching, Evan Gattis", Tim Federowicz resurfaced to take the backstop's place. It looks like it will be Stassi and Fedo behind the plate for the forseeable future.
The Astros also recalled reliever Joe Smith from the disabled list after a couple of successful rehab appearances in the minors. First baseman A.J. Reed was sent back down to AAA Fresno.
Yuli Gurriel got the offense started early with a double that plated Alex Bregman in the first against Austin Bibens-Dirkx. Josh Reddick followed with a line double which struck the right field fence just under the home run line.
Reddick did not make the same mistake in the third, crushing a homer deep into the right field seats. Later that frame, Tiny Tony Kemp smashed a homer just over Nomar Mazara's glove in right-center for a two-run blast that quickly pushed the margin to 5-1.
That left it for Keuchel and company to finish off the last-place Rangers which they did but not without a little drama. Ahead, 5-2, Devenski allowed a hit and two walks in the eighth to fill the sacks before Rougned Odor bounced into a fielders choice that plated Shin-Soo Choo as Arlington crept within two.
Rondon walked pinch-hitter Joey Gallo to re-load the bases before fanning Robinson Chirinos to end the threat.
The Astros have already chalked up their 11th win against the Rangers in 15 tries and will close out the two-game series on the Fourth with Cole (9-2) being pushed up in the rotation to start the 6:05 pm Central fireworks show against Mike "Two Minute" Minor (6-4).
The restructuring of the rotation will put Verlander on schedule to pitch the Sunday prior to the All-Star Game which will eliminate him from participating although he will likely be named to the team. A.J. Hinch, who will manage the A.L. squad, appears to be letting the former MVP and Cy Young Winner skip the event so his other deserving starting pitchers can be added to the All-Star staff.
- Bob Hulsey