HOUSTON — The evolution of left-hander Dallas Keuchel is getting lost amid another miserable start by the Houston Astros, but with each outing, Keuchel delivers something that makes him difficult to ignore.
The 26-year-old tossed his first career shutout and rode early run support to an 8-0 win over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
Keuchel (4-2) has allowed two or fewer runs in five of his eight starts this season, with his latest representing his best. He scattered seven hits and struck out seven while recording the first complete game of the season for Houston (13-27).
The complete game was the second of Kuechel’s career, the first coming on June 23, 2012, against the Cleveland Indians.
“It feels great. I would be lying if I said it didn’t feel good, especially (against) that type of lineup,” Keuchel said. “I thought I was going to run into some trouble there a couple of innings just because they were beating the shift … but they’re paid a lot of money for that reason. I escaped some damage and got out of there and got lucky.”
The Rangers (20-20) managed just one extra-base hit against Keuchel, a two-out double from
third baseman Adrian Beltre in the first inning. They rolled into four double plays and did little to disrupt his rhythm. Keuchel struck out the side on 10 pitches in the top of the second.
“He was changing speeds really well,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Keuchel. “And when he had to make a pitch, he threw that sinker. We just could not center it. Everything we hit, we just kept beating it into the ground. And he kept throwing it, and we just kept beating it into the ground. You have to give him credit.”
Astros designated hitter Chris Carter recorded three hits as Houston extended its streak of 11-hit games to four. Houston right fielder George Springer walked three times, half his season total entering Tuesday, while left fielder L.J. Hoes matched his season total with three RBIs. Catcher Carlos Corporan added a three-run homer.
Already facing a quandary over left-hander Martin Perez and his elbow inflammation, Texas lost another starter when left-hander Matt Harrison departed with back stiffness just 55 pitches into his outing.
Harrison, who missed most of 2013 following two back surgeries and an additional shoulder procedure, worked around two walks in the first inning before coming undone in the second. Hoes’ two-run homer to left followed a leadoff single from Carter and preceded by three at-bats a two-out double to left by second baseman Jose Altuve.
Harrison (1-1) walked Springer for a second time before center fielder Dexter Fowler chased him with a run-scoring single for a 3-0 Houston lead. Harrison totaled five outs in his shortest appearance of the season.
“I felt OK warming up, but looking up (at the radar) I noticed that my velocity just kept going down further and further,” Harrison said. “Then I knew at that point, something wasn’t right. When they came out for the third time, I told them that it was probably a good time to get me out and see what is going on.
“I just could not seem to get my arm in the same position from pitch to pitch, and it was a struggle to find the strike zone. It was rough.”
Springer added an RBI single in the fourth to increase the lead to 4-0.
The Astros doubled that margin with their four-run fifth. Corporan delivered a three-run homer into the upper deck in right off right-hander Justin Germano after Hoes drove home first baseman Jesus Guzman with a swinging bunt single. Carter, Hoes and Corporan, Houston’s No. 6, 7 and 8 hitters, finished a combined 6-for-12 with six RBIs and five runs.
“I thought Hoes’ home run was a big home run, but Corporan’s home run was huge as well,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “These are some of the big hits that had been eluding us.”