HOUSTON — Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch diplomatically credited left-handed ace Dallas Keuchel for pitching exceptionally on Sunday because Keuchel typically competes at a high level, not because he felt motivated from a dustup that escalated in the ninth inning on Saturday night.
Keuchel didn’t mince words after working seven shutout innings, recording a career-best 13 strikeouts, and undergirding an offensive attack that carried the Astros to a 10-0 victory over the Texas Rangers in the rubber match of a three-game set at Minute Maid Park.
“When you don’t show respect to other players there’s guys who will take offense to that,” Keuchel said. “You don’t disrespect the game of baseball. I felt like we got disrespected yesterday. I wasn’t here for it, but at the same time I knew what I had to do. Luckily I was able to come out and set the tempo for the guys.”
Keuchel (12-4) retired the final 18 batters he faced and surrendered only two hits: a two-out double to Rangers designated hitter Prince Fielder in the first inning and a bloop leadoff single to right fielder Josh Hamilton in the second. After Hamilton reached on his flare to shallow center field, Keuchel allowed just one additional
ball out of the infield.
After splitting a pair of tense one-run affairs, the Astros (51-43) shelled Rangers right-hander Yovani Gallardo (7-9) to cruise to victory.
Shortstop Carlos Correa (2-for-3 with two walks and three runs) and designated hitter Evan Gattis (2-for-3 with a walk and a hit by pitch) reached base in each of their opening four plate appearances. Third baseman Luis Valbuena recorded the first four-hit game of his career and finished 4-for-5 with a double and a career-high-tying four RBIs.
Correa ignited the bludgeoning with an RBI double in the third inning and scored when right fielder Colby Rasmus followed with a two-run home run, his 12th, to right field.
Valbuena added two-run singles in the fifth and sixth innings before left fielder Preston Tucker jacked his sixth homer in the seventh, a two-run shot to left that scored second baseman Jose Altuve. The Astros improved to 33-5 in multi-homer games.
“We know that when Keuchel is pitching we just have to give him an early lead and he will feel comfortable out there and he will do what he does best and that’s throw strikes and get soft contact and keep us in the game,” Correa said. “That’s what we try to do every time he steps on the mound.”
Gallardo allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks in four-plus innings. The Astros, who finished 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position, also tagged Rangers reliever Anthony Ranaudo for five runs.
“Not good to be honest,” Gallardo said in response to how he felt on the mound. “This is the first time I’ve felt like that in a long time. Just falling behind guys. Ever since the first hitter of the ballgame my command wasn’t there. I couldn’t throw my breaking stuff for strikes and I wasn’t able to do that and ran myself into trouble.”
The ample run support proved gratuitous. Keuchel did not issue a walk and struck out six consecutive batters between the fifth and seventh innings. He recorded just two called third strikes and baffled the Rangers (43-48) one night after Texas slugged three home runs.
“Dallas is a quality pitcher,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “He utilized the strike zone and we didn’t make adjustments. It looked like our approach got a little too big at times. Really would like to see our singles approach similar to what we did to him last time.
“It just didn’t work out for us. When you get behind a pitcher like that it’s tough to get anything going against him.”