Second start ‘wasn’t sharp’ for Keuchel
Rookie Austin Pruitt knew he had a couple hundred friends and family at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday night to watch him pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays in the city where he grew up.
B ut t he right-hander refused to even look for them before his work was done.
Then after he completed the bulk of what would be a combined five-hitter in a 3-0 win over the Houston Astros, the stoic Pruitt cracked a smiled and fixed his eyes on where his personal cheering section was assembled.
“Whenever I got pulled I tried to look at everybody and kind of show everybody a little bit of love,” he said.
It was the first loss of the season for Houston ace Dallas Keuchel, who was still trying to regain his form in his second start after missing almost two months with a pinched nerve in his neck.
“He wasn’t locating his pitches. He wasn’t sharp,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “From start to start, you look back at how much time he missed and then the rehab starts and this being his sec- ond start, this was a step in the right direction, but his command wasn’t sharp.”
Logan Morrison hit a tworun homer. He also connected Tuesday night, snapping his season-long 12-game homer- less streak.
The AL West-leading Astros, whose powerful offense has taken a hit with All-Stars Carlos Correa and George Springer on the disabled list, went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and were shut out for the second time in a week.
Pruitt (6-2), who grew up in suburban Houston and attended the University of Houston, allowed five hits in a career-high 6⅓ innings.
“Austin Pruitt was awesome ... I knew he was excited to pitch here and all the talk about it, but to go out and perform like that had to be pretty special for him,” man- ager Kevin Cash said.
Steve Cishek walked one in 1⅓ innings, and Dan Jennings got the last out of the eighth before Alex Colome walked one in the ninth in getting his 32nd save.
Keuchel (9-1) gave up Trevor Plouffe’s one-out single in the first and Morrison hits his 28th home run with two outs.
Keuchel allowed seven hits and three runs in five innings.
The lefty ace was better than he was in his previous start, when he lasted just three innings and gave up three runs at Detroit. But he was far from the dominant pitcher he was before his second trip to the disabled list, when he was 9-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 11 starts.
Two years ago, Iowa State’s Mike Warren established himself as one of the nation’s most prom- ising young running backs.
Late last season, David Montgomery did the same thing.
The Cyclones are hoping the pair will give them a successful running game after a 3-9 record last season.
Iowa State enters 2017 with two of the Big 12’s more intriguing backs in Warren, who ran for more than 1,300 yards in 2015, and Montgom- ery, who rushed for more than 140 yards in two of his final three games last year.
Montgomery, a sophomore, will likely open the season as the starter. But Warren, a redshirt junior, should see plenty of playing time — and second-year coach Matt Campbell said the competi- tion for playing time was so friendly that the two became close in the offseason.
“I’ll be honest with you. Early on I’m like ‘Is this really real, or is this phony?’ But as I saw and watched them feeding off of each other ... those two have made each other better,” Campbell said Thursday during the team’s annual media day.
Campbell opened his first season at Iowa State believ- ing Warren was a star in the making.
Though Warren had an injury-riddled and disap- pointing season a year ago, Iowa State remains confident that he can be a difference maker.
Warren was overlooked as a recruit because he didn’t peak until his senior year, rushing for 2,512 yards on 9.3 yards a carry. Warren committed to Campbell at Toledo, later switching to Iowa State for an opportunity to play at a Power Five school.
After a redshirt season, Warren reunited with Campbell and averaged a school record 5.9 yards per carry while gaining the third-most yards by a freshman in league history.
But Warren struggled to play through a high-ankle sprain last season and was limited to just 559 yards. Campbell also publicly chal- lenged Warren for his effort at times last season, but he said Warren re-dedicated him- self in the offseason and was one of team’s most impressive workers.
“There wasn’t any thought at all (about transferring),” Warren said. “I think it’s paid off so far.”
If there was a bright side to Warren’s struggles in 2016, it was that they gave Mont- gomery a shot much earlier than expected.
Montgomery, a high school quarterback, blossomed last November. He finished with 563 yards — but 341 of those came in Iowa State’s final three games.
Montgomery had 169 yards in a win over Kansas that snapped a five-game los- ing streak and 141 more in a season-ending loss to West Virginia.
Montgomery also caught 13 passes in 2016, a number that could expand greatly as the coaching staff seeks ways to get Montgomery and Warren on the field together.
“Mike is a great guy. He helped me a lot when I got here, and my biggest thing was just to help him. If he can help me, I know I can help him,” Montgomery said. “He pushes me. I push him.”
Warren and Montgomery’s success in 2017 will hinge partly on the develop- ment of a rebuilt offensive line. But both have proven they can play in the Big 12, and keeping Warren and Montgomery healthy and fresh could help Iowa State reach its first bowl game in five years
The Cyclones host Northern Iowa of the FCS on Sept. 2.
“I wouldn’t really see it as competition. I would see it as like tough love almost,” Warren said. “It’s more like tough love from our peers, and we need that to grow.”