The third game of the home and home four game bout with the Diamondbacks featured a pitching match-up of Brandon McCarthy versus Dallas Keuchel. Talk about a difference in seasons. Keuchel came into this game as a possible Cy Young candidate while McCarthy had been rocked to a tune of a 1-8 record and a 5.19 ERA. George Springer returned to the Astros order following knee soreness. However, Jose Altuve was out of the order with a strained oblique, thus bumping Springer into the two hole.
The theme of the game was timely hitting, as the Astros used a combination of key hits, home runs, and as always great starting pitching en route to a successful Wednesday evening.
Keuchel came out in true ace form in the first retiring the side in order with a strikeout of Paul Goldschmidt. The Astros drew first blood in the bottom half of the first. Springer, in his first pitch back from injury, banged a single out to the right side. The single was followed by a Jon Singleton walk, and a Jason Castro RBI single. Castro stroked the ball right up the middle, and it is a good sign for the Astros catcher. His on base average had found its way below .300, a place Jason should not be hovering in.
Keuchel battled his command through the second and third, throwing almost as many balls as strikes. However, he makes pitches when he has to and knows how to battle. Keuchel worked through the first three allowing no hits, a walk, while striking out two. It clearly was not his best day for command early on, but his ability to change speeds allows him to dominate.
The Astros top of the order created foot traffic for McCarthy in the third when Villar and Springer banged out singles. A wild pitch advanced them to second and third. Following the wild pitch Singleton hit a tracer of a ground ball to first and sacrificed a runner in. The Astros scoring would be halted there and they lead 2-0 after three.
Aaron Hill got the Diamondbacks first hit and plated their first run with a solid shot to the Crawford Boxes to lead off the top of the fourth. Keuchel would give up a second hit to Goldschmidt, before navigating his way out of the inning with help of a double play.
Chris Carter‘s home run bat showed up once again in the bottom of the fourth getting the Astros run back. He hit a solo shot into the third row of the Crawford Boxes, utilizing a little home field advantage. The Astros plated one run for the third time and led 3-1.
Keuchel’s utter dominance continued through the middle innings. The Diamondbacks were completely fooled with an array of fastballs, curveballs, and sliders, thrown in every count.
Chris Carter struck once again with the home run ball in the top of the seventh to increase the Astros advantage to 4-1. The home run was a line shot to right field. Alex Presley followed with a sharp single to right. Alex showed his quick feet with a steal of second regardless of a pitch-out. Following a Marwin Gonzalez walk, veteran setup man J.J. Putz checked in to pitch for the Diamondbacks. Jonathan Villar dropped a drag bunt down the third base side and beat the ball easily to load the bases with nobody out. Dexter Fowler struck out, but saving the day was Springer who laced a sac fly to Ender Inciarte. Lefty Joe Thatcher was brought into the game to neutralize Singleton, and he was able to get Jon to ground out to short. The Diamondbacks escaped a possible catastrophe, allowing two runs in the seventh. Regardless the Astros had a comfortable lead, 5-1.
Keuchel dazzled his way through eight innings of one run ball while striking out five. He was absolutely dominant after the early innings, while being aided by superb defensive play — mainly by Marwin Gonzelez at second base.
The game would end with Chad Qualls wrapping it up in one, two, and three fashion. The game was just another beautiful win in the Astros books. Carter has now homered six times in 14 days, Keuchel is Dallas “Cy” Keuchel, and the Astros continue to do business as usual. In the clubhouse after the game Bo Porter exclaimed that, “If he’s not an All-Star what is” while referring to Dallas’s continued excellent efforts. I could not agree more, it has been simply brilliant.