Dallas Keuchel, Houston's Cy Young Award Winner from a year ago, has had a disappointing season which has been frustrating to watch. He has lost a few he deserved to lose but he's also lost a few where he just happened to be the man on the mound when the bats gave little support.
Valbuena encourages Keuchel
(c) Associated Press
Monday night was such a night as Keuchel allowed the winning run in the eighth inning of a 2-1 loss to the New York Yankees at Minute Maid. Austin Romine doubled in the frame to plate Chase Headley with the decisive run. The Yanks, even after trading Aroldis Chapman earlier in the day, were in the spot to let their talented bullpen close it out for them. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller shut the door but not without some ninth inning drama.
Luis Valbuena reached with his third hit of the night then pinch-runner Jake Marisnick advanced to second on a fielders choice by Evan Gattis that put two aboard with one out. However, Miller recovered by coaxing a 6-4-3 double play out of Carlos Gomez to end the game before 30,000 dynamically-priced fans.
Keuchel also allowed an RBI single to Headley in the fifth after Didi Gregorius doubled. Keuchel actually pitched well, allowing just six hits and no walks in 7-2/3rd innings. He retired 13 of 14 in one stretch.
His offense let him down. George Springer drilled a solo homer as the first Houston batter of the game and the last Houston batter to cross the plate. The Astros had a couple of chances to add on against Michael Pineda but failed to give Keuchel any additional runs to work with.
Alex Bregman, last year's second overall draft choice, played his first big league game at third base but was 0-for-4 at the plate with two strikeouts, joining the ranks of Colin Moran and A.J. Reed for inauspicious big league debuts. Don't worry, fans. He'll get his chances to turn that around.
Jose Altuve was 1-for-4 to run his batting streak to ten games since the All-Star Break.
The Astros fell back a game to the Rangers in the AL West (now 3-1/2 back) and to the Blue Jays in the Wild Card race (now 1-1/2 in arrears).
Recovering alcoholic C.C. Sabathia (5-8) will pitch the Middle Game for the Yankees on Tuesday night against Doug Fister (10-6) in a 7:10 Central tip-off. The Astros will need to win on Tuesday and Wednesday to split the season series.
The trade front still seems very quiet with a week remaining. No news is imminent while the Astros shop for a backup lefty reliever, an upgrade for the rotation or maybe some help for the skittish offense. Stay tuned as the deadline approaches.
- Bob Hulsey