Dallas Keuchel and "consistency" have not been kissing cousins this season but the former Cy Young winner may be rounding into form for the second half. The lefty is now 3-0 the past month after a 2-1 victory Sunday over the Chicago White Sox that completed a four-game sweep (they broomed the season series, 7-0) and continued Houston's winning streak to six games. The Astros remain 3-1/2 games ahead of Seattle in the AL West.
Tucker: Dance practice
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
Keuchel tossed seven frames, allowing six hits and three walks. The only run he allowed came in the seventh when Yoan Moncada singled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly.
Lucas Giolito pitched better but fared worse. The Sox starter gave up just three hits in 7-1/3rd innings but two were costly. Jose Altuve (the real one, not the thousands of children given #27 jerseys as they entered the stadium) crushed a first-pitch curveball for a solo homer in the fourth to break the scoreless tie then, briefly, the Sox tied it again in the seventh.
Yuli Gurriel doubled in the bottom of the seventh and moved up to third on a deep drive by Josh Reddick. With the count 0-2, Marwin Gonzalez pushed a dead fish squeeze bunt back in front of the mound that scored the breaking Gurriel easily.
Collin McHugh and Hector Rondon held down the last two innings to preserve the 2-1 final. For those left wondering, Kyle Tucker was 0-for-3 in his second big league game while Alex Bregman also went hitless, snapping his batting streak at 12 games.
How frustrating it must have been for the young Sox to hold Houston to three hits all afternoon and still come away with a loss after surrendering 23 runs in the previous two games. That's what it's like having a season on course for 100 losses, as most Houston fans well remember.
The Oakland A's move into town Monday night to open a four-game series. Gerrit Cole (9-2 and now an All-Star) gets the 7:10 pm Central lidlifter against righthander Frankie Montas (4-2). Don't fall asleep on the Athletics, now solidly in third place in the division and ten games over .500 at 50-40. They have won ten of their last twelve.
All-Star Rosters were announced Sunday night with Altuve the leading American League vote-getter. He will start at second base. Pitchers Cole and Justin Verlander were selected although Verlander will not play. Bregman and outfielder George Springer were chosen as reserves.
The final roster spot is among position players so that means, barring injury replacements, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers - the two Astros with ten or more wins - were both left off the roster. A case could have also been made for Collin McHugh, Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis but the entire process is clearly flawed when a pitcher like Tampa Bay's Blake Snell isn't selected when he has been the most dominant pitcher in the league.
In a way, this is good as it might make some Astros even hungrier to prove a point over the second half of the season. If they start to run away with the division, finding motivation to play at the top of their game could be lacking in the defending World Champions. This is a team on pace for a club-record 107 wins yet I've felt all year that they haven't hit their stride.
- Bob Hulsey