Keuchel a proven star against stripes

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS -

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.

| RON­ALD MARTINEZ/ GETTY IM­AGES

Dal­las Keuchel, who starts in the ALCS opener Fri­day night, has been dan­ger­ous against the Yan­kees, in­clud­ing in the 2015 AL wild- card game.

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