Dallas Keuchel's left arm and golden glove led the Astros to a HUGE victory - and a series win - over the Texas Rangers at home. He ended the night with seven strong innings pitched on 122 pitches, only 2 hits and one run allowed, and notched ten strikeouts of Rangers in the game. But it didn't look quite so rosy to begin with.
The highlight of the first two innings for the Astros' ace would come on a strikeout of Mike Napoli - the first of two for Napoli on the game - on a beautiful back foot slider from Keuchel. It was Keuchel's first of the ten strikeouts on the game, and gave him 204 for the season to that point - moving him past Mike Cuellar's 1967 team record for strikeouts by a left handed pitcher.
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Keuchel would finish the game and set a new Astros record for strikeouts in a season by a left handed pitcher with 213.
Otherwise, it was a scary first two innings - Keuchel had 49 pitches through the pair of frames with six three ball counts. He only allowed one hit and one run, however - though even that run would not have scored if not for a poorly played pitch in the dirt by Jason Castro. With runners on first and second, one out and Prince Fielder at the plate, a low but playable pitch from Keuchel squirted through Castro's legs and allowed the base runners to advance out of double play position and into second and third. Then, predictably, Fielder hit a ground ball (which would have been a double play ball) to Jose Altuve, scoring the only run Keuchel would allow instead of ending the inning.
But after that? It was all Keuchel.
After Rangers starter Martin Perez - who turned in a decent game that benefited (as did Keuchel's) by pretty bad officiating at home plate - struggled with control in the second inning and the Astros loaded the bases (Marwin Gonzalez reached on an error by Elvis Andrus, Chris Carter singled to left field, and Jason Castro walked), Jake Marisnick came through in a huge way with a two-RBI double to right center field.
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Keuchelangelo responded with an eleven pitch inning in the top of the third inning including a strikeout of Adrian Beltre. He then notched two more strikeouts in the top of the fourth and struck out the side in the top of the fifth. Delino Deshields then struck out to lead off the top of the sixth inning, giving Keuchel four straight punch outs and nine on the game. He'd add one more - a strikeout of Mitch Moreland - before inducing a foul pop out from Elvis Andrus to end Keuchelangelo's night at seven excellent innings pitched. At one point, he retired fifteen straight batters - which was perfect, as Dallas Keuchel became the first pitcher in Major League history to start his season 15-0 at home...and he did it with a sparkling 1.46 ERA at home, the lowest home ERA posted in the Major Leagues since Nolan Ryan posted an ERA just over one at home for the California Angels in 1972.
Chris Carter would add a solo home run for insurance - which was ultimately needed after Rougned Odor tripled off Oliver Perez to lead off the top of the eighth inning and later scored on a ground out. Then, in the ninth inning with the Astros leading 3-2, Evan Gattis would rip a single into center field and be replaced at first base with a pinch runner - Carlos Gomez, making his first appearance in a game since September 12th, as he's nursed a strained intercostal muscle. He then promptly stole second base, advanced to third base on a ground out by Colby Rasmus, and ultimately scored on a passed ball with a beautiful slide to avoid the tag applied by Sam Dyson, who did his very best to block Gomez's path to the plate but ultimately failed.
Luke Gregerson nailed down his 29th save in the ninth inning with aplomb...and much less drama and histrionics than in his appearance yesterday.
The Astros close out this final homestand of the year 5-4 and set off to do battle in Seattle tomorrow night for three games before finishing the 2015 regular season with three games in Arizona against the Diamondbacks.