Keuchel solid in 5th straight win
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The Astros finished off the month of April the same way they started it, riding an outstanding pitching performance from Dallas Keuchel and a few timely hits to victory over a Western division opponent at Minute Maid Park. Keuchel was charged with one run on three hits and two walks in a 7-2 win over the Oakland A's. Houston's ace fanned nine en route to his fifth win in as many starts and a possible American League Pitcher of the Month Award.
The Astros got the offense started quickly in Sunday afternoon's deciding game of a 3-game series. George Springer led off the bottom of the first by legging out an infield hit. Two outs later, Carlos Correa drove a double to leftfield to bring Springer home with a big early run.
Evan Gattis drove in Houston's second run of the game with a fourth inning double that plated Yulieski Gurriel. The Astros added two more in the fifth when Brian McCann singled to right with the bases loaded. The way Keuchel was sailing along, four runs had to look like an insurmountable deficit to the A's.
The score stayed at 4-0 until the top of the eighth when Keuchel allowed a 2-out single to Adam Rosales. Keuchel was then removed from the contest to a rousing ovation from the home crowd (and probably the A's as well). Luke Gregerson came on in relief but was unable to keep Rosales from coming around to score and break up the shutout.
The Astros tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the eighth thanks to a big 3-run blast by Marwin Gonzalez that hit high on the rightfield foul pole.
Brad Peacock came on to pitch the ninth for the Astros and proceeded to struggle for the first time all season. Peacock surrendered one run on two hits, two walks, and a wild pitch and left the game with two outs and the bases loaded. Ken Giles needed only one pitch to get credit for his sixth save as Yonder Alonso lined out to rightfielder Josh Reddick.
The win gives the first-place Astros a 16-9 mark for the month of April, a welcomed improvement over last year's 7-17 start. The Astros have now won 12 of the first 16 games against divisional opponents but the big test starts Monday when the Rangers come to town to start a 4-game series.
- Greg Thurston