For the first four innings it looked like another disappointing afternoon for Dallas Keuchel and the Astros. The rookie left-hander was dealing against the Indians but the Astros offense remained missing in action. Cleveland starter Jeanmar Gomez retired the first 12 Astros batters without incident and Keuchel was on the wrong side of a 1-0 game.
That all changed in the bottom of the fifth when the Astros bats awoke from a prolonged slumber, plating four runs before Gomez knew what happened. Brian Bogusevic and Chris Johnson got the Astros on the board with back-to-back doubles to start the inning. One out later, J.D. Martinez and Jordan Schafer hit back-to-back homers to make it 4-1 Astros. Martinez, who was a last minute fill-in for Justin Maxwell, hammered a no-doubter to leftfield and Schafer followed with a Crawford Boxes special. The offensive explosion wasn’t over yet, but more on that later.
The offense had to break out eventually, but the even bigger story of today’s game was the complete game performance of Dallas Keuchel. Making only his second appearance on a big league mound, Keuchel was masterful. A fourth inning solo homer by Asdrubal Cabrera was the extent of the Indians offense today against Keuchel. In fact, no other Cleveland base-runner reached scoring position until the ninth inning. But Keuchel was determined to finish what he started and was able to get a couple of popups to end the game with Shin Soo Choo stranded at third base. Keuchel allowed six hits and one walk in a game that featured fourteen ground ball outs. Keuchel fanned three and needed only 108 pitches to throw the first complete game of the season by an Astros pitcher.
More on Keuchel later- let’s get back to the offense for a moment.
Lots of surprises in today’s offensive effort. Astros hitters struck out only five times in the game. Nine of their ten hits went for extra bases, inclucing a season-high six doubles. Not only was it a season high for extra base hits, but all nine came in the last four innings of the game. Jose Altuve hit his fifth homer of the season and every position player, with the exception of Jason Castro, had at least one XBH. Calos Lee was moved to the third spot in the lineup and responded with his first RBI in what seems like an eternity. Schafer was moved down to the eight spot and broke out of an 0 for 13 slump with the homerun.
Keuchel was all business on the mound and during his post-game TV interview. Keuchel told FSN Houston’s Greg Lucas:
I think I’m just ready for here. I’ve been growing up waiting for this moment. Once you get it you’ve got to cherish it and take advantage of it.
Now, the real question has to be: will Keuchel stay in the Astros rotation? Bud Norris, who Keuchel replaced, is scheduled to make a rehab start tonight at Oklahoma City. If all goes well Norris will rejoin the Astros for his next start. That could make Keuchel the odd man out. If Keuchel is sent back to AAA it should only be a matter of time until he is back in Houston. The Astros could also choose to keep Keuchel in the rotation and send Jordan Lyles to AAA. We should get an answer to this question in about five days or so.