The Astros Opening Day starting pitcher was in great form in last night’s victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Following a rough 2016 season, Dallas Keuchel was surrounded by question marks. Fair or not, he needed a strong start to the 2017 season to help qualm everyone’s concern about him. Last night was a good start. Here are are my three keys to his success last night for the Astros and going forward this season.
Keuchel utilized the lower half of the strike zone. He worked both inside and outside corners, while mixing elevation slightly to change the hitter’s perception of his pitches. He allowed this location to dictate where the hitters made contact and control the flow of the game. Commanding the stirke zone limits hitters abilities to make solid contact. He was exceptional and forcing hitters to go after his pitches, and not have to pitch to the hitter’s strengths.
The Ball Kept Moving
As a pitcher who lacks the ability to overpower hitters, ball movement was vitally important to manufacturing outs. Keuchel controlled the ball beautifully with subtle breaks and hard cuts. 53 of his 85 pitches went for strikes. His misses were equally important to set up hitters and keep them off balance. Ball movement and spin softens the blow of contact. Keuchel’s biggest advantage was his ability to minimize solid contact throughout the lineup.
He Kept His Composure
Keuchel is an emotional player. He thrives of the energy of the fans and performance of his teammates. He didn’t allow a bad call get the best of him as it has before in prior appearances. Keuchel stood strong against a tough 4th inning, where he allowed two walks, and a hit batter in the seventh inning.
A mixture of movement and location allowed Keuchel to control the Mariners at the plate. He varied his velocity and let all of his pitches work for him. He made defensive plays to help his cause and continued to work hard against a formidable Seattle lineup. This is exactly the start we wanted from Dallas Keuchel. It will be exciting to see his next appearance against the Royals on April 8th.
***Statistics courtesy of MLB.com and ESPN.com***