Keuchel a proven star against stripes
Dallas Keuchel is tired of talking about his success against the New York Yankees. It didn’t matter Thursday, though.
The Yankees were an unavoidable subject for the Astros’ ace as he prepares to start against them in Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday night. Masahiro Tanaka will pitch for the Yankees, who are in the championship series for the first time since 2012.
“I’ve been asked that question like 10 times already,” a slightly exasperated Keuchel said. “I don’t know. I mean, we’re one of only four teams left, so at this point, a lot of guys have had success pitching- wise on either the Indians or the Yankees.”
Astros manager A. J. Hinch didn’t shy away from singing Keuchel’s praises for his work against the Yankees. He joked that the lefty will probably feel better when he takes the mound and sees players in Yankees uniforms. But he was quick to point out that Keuchel’s success certainly hasn’t been limited to games against one team.
“I know there’s a confidence level,” Hinch said. “And to be honest with you, when Dallas is right, he’s confident against anybody. I don’t think [ it matters] who the names are or who the jersey is — he knows he can get anybody out in the league.”
But Keuchel has pitched better than most against the Yankees in recent years, going 4- 2 with a 1.41 ERA and 45 strikeouts in six regular- season starts. His biggest win to date against them came in the 2015 AL wild- card game when he and the then- upstart Astros got a 3- 0 win in the Bronx. He struck out seven and scattered three hits over six innings to get the win in the Astros’ first trip to the postseason in a decade after years of rebuilding and losing.
“For that win in the wild- card game, it wasn’t just special for me and the validation, it was special for everybody to go into New York and play that well,” Keuchel said. “But now we look back on it and it’s probably one of the most magical times that I’ll have in my career.”
Keuchel gets the nod in the opener after pitching behind Justin Verlander in the ALDS. Verlander, who was acquired Aug. 31, made his first career relief appearance to help eliminate the Red Sox in Game 4 on Monday.
Hinch sees Keuchel and Verlander as 1A and 1B in his rotation.
“Dallas is really good, so I’m not the least bit hesitant on starting him,” Hinch said. “When we made the move to pitch Verlander in Game 4 out of relief, we had the backdrop that Dallas was going to start Game 5. So I have all the confidence in the world.”
Keuchel won the AL Cy Young Award in 2015 when he went 20- 8 with a 2.48 ERA before struggling last season with a 9- 12 record and 4.55 ERA. He bounced back this year despite neck issues, posting a 14- 5 record with a 2.90 ERA to help the Astros run away with the AL West title.
He built off that in his first start this postseason when he yielded three hits and a run in 5‰ innings to help the Astros to an 8- 2 win over the Red Sox in Game 2 of the ALDS. That made him 3- 0 with a 2.29 ERA in four postseason appearances with three starts.
After Keuchel and Tanaka meet Friday, Verlander and Luis Severino will pitch in Game 2 on Saturday in Houston.
Dallas Keuchel, who starts in the ALCS opener Friday night, has been dangerous against the Yankees, including in the 2015 AL wild- card game.