Sunday’s roundup: Keuchel leads Astros to series lead
Houston – — Dallas Keuchel’s perfect performance in Houston this year has the upstart Astros one win away from the American League Championship Series.
Keuchel remained undefeated at Minute Maid Park with seven gutsy innings and Chris Carter homered Sunday, leading Houston to a 4-2 win over Kansas City to take a 2-1 lead in their division series.
The Astros could wrap up the best-of-five series with a win over the defending AL champion Royals in Game 4 on Monday.
Houston’s remarkable run comes just two years after the team lost a franchise-worst 111 games in a third-straight 100-loss season.
“I think that success is a lot more sweet when you kind of go through hardship like we did the first couple years that I was up here,” Keuchel said. “But it’s really not a confidence that has grown. It’s been here the whole time … just now that we’re getting to the playoffs and on a national stage … it’s a shock to a lot of people.”
Keuchel, who shut down the Yankees in the AL wild-card game, worked out of jam after jam, allowing five hits and one run with seven strikeouts after going 15-0 at home this season, a modern major league record. He has a 1.45 ERA at Minute Maid Park in 19 starts this year.
“The ball in Dallas Keuchel’s hand brings an awful lot of confidence to a lot of people, including me,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “And he came up with some excellent pitches.”
Luke Gregerson gave up a leadoff homer in the ninth to Alex Gordon before finishing off the Astros first playoff game in Houston in 10 years with a four-out save. It was his first save of more than three outs in three years.
Jason Castro drove in two runs with a single in the fifth that made it 2-1. Carlos Gomez, who has a rib muscle strain, started for the first time in the series and had an RBI single in the sixth.
Carter’s soaring solo homer, which landed on the train tracks atop the wall in left-center, and came on Danny Duffy’s first pitch of the seventh pushed the lead to 4-1.
“After struggling so much this year and just having the success I’ve been having in the last couple of weeks, it’s been nice to contribute and help us win games,” Carter said.
Lorenzo Cain hit a solo homer in the fourth for the Royals, who are on the brink of elimination after reaching the World Series last season.
Kansas City starter Edinson Volquez fell to 0-3 in his postseason career after allowing five hits and three runs in 52/3 innings.
They took the series lead in front of a rowdy, playoff-starved sellout crowd of 42,674. The group was mostly clad in orange and dotted with fans sporting fake beards in support of the star lefty who has become all but untouchable at home.
They were given inflatable orange thundersticks at the door and spent the afternoon beating them as they cheered, making the roar in the closed-roof stadium deafening at times.
“Electric crowd, and it was 10 years coming,” Keuchel said.
Keuchel wasn’t as sharp as he was in New York, but he was able to tiptoe out of trouble again and again and got deep in the game despite a pitch count that got high early. He finished with a season-high 124 pitches.
Colby Rasmus , who homered in Houston’s first three playoff games, got a kooky single in the eighth when his pop fly caromed off the ceiling and back into play.
Toronto 5, (at) Texas 1: Troy Tulowitzki drove in four runs, including a three-run homer for his first hit this postseason, and the Blue Jays avoided elimination in the AL Division Series with a 5-1 win over the Rangers in Game 3.
Toronto cut its deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-five matchup.
Marco Estrada limited the Rangers to one run and five hits over 61/3 innings, with four strikeouts and no walks.
Texas has another chance Monday to clinch the series at home. If not, a deciding Game 5 will be played Wednesday in Toronto, where the Rangers won the first two games.
Tulowitzki’s drive to left with two outs in the sixth inning put the Blue Jays up 5-0. That was two innings after he drew a bases-loaded walk. He missed most of the final three weeks of the regular season because of a cracked shoulder blade and bruised muscles in his upper back.
Texas left-hander Martin Perez, somewhat a surprise pick as the Game 3 starter over veterans Derek Holland and Colby Lewis, gave up four runs and six hits while pitching into the sixth.
Holland (4-3) starts Game 4 against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (11-11).
The Blue Jays had their leadoff hitter at second base to start each of the third through fifth innings, a span that included three double plays ignited by second baseman Rougned Odor.
Toronto started the sixth with consecutive singles to chase Perez, and Edwin Encarnacion then drew a 10-pitch walk from rookie reliever Chi Chi Gonzalez to load the bases before the Rangers’ fourth double play in an as many innings.
First baseman Mitch Moreland fielded Chris Colabello’s hard-hit hopper, threw home for the first out and got back to the bag to take the return throw.
Tulowitzki, then 0-for-11 in the series, followed with his homer on a full-count pitch.
It was only the second postseason homer in 69 career postseason at-bats for Tulowitzki. The first 57 ABs came in 15 playoff games in 2007 and 2009 for the Colorado Rockies, who traded the shortstop to Toronto on July 27. He later singled.
Navarro got Toronto’s first hit, a double leading off the third when center fielder Delino DeShields got a late break and the ball was just beyond the reach of his outstretched glove. Navarro scored when Odor initially bobbled a grounder by Ryan Goins before reaching back with his right foot to touch the base and throwing the first to complete the first double play.
Josh Donaldson led off the fourth with a double and scored when Tulowitzki was the third consecutive batter walked by Perez. Donaldson was greeted with a chorus of boos from Rangers fans, who apparently read lips during his dustup with reliever Keone Kela in the 13th inning of Game 2 that Texas won 6-4 in the 14th.
The bases were still loaded in the fourth when Navarro had an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play a pitch after a hard foul down the third-base line.
Odor made a backhanded catch with his glove just off the ground on Ben Revere’s broken-bat soft liner, then doubled off Kevin Pillar, who had broken home to end the fifth.
Around the horn
Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley was suspended for Games 3 and 4 against the Mets for his slide which broke the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejeda on Saturday night. Utley can appeal.
... Dean Chance, who won the 1964 Cy Young Award and later pitched a no-hitter, died Sunday in Wooster, Ohio. He was 74.
Chance, who also pitched for the Tigers in a 10-year career in which he was 128-115, died two months after his induction into the Angels Hall of Fame.