By Nick Fathergill
Four days after his last start, with only three days rest in between, the Houston Astros tabbed Dallas Keuchel to toe the rubber in a winner-take-all Wild Card game against the New York Yankees, a team Keuchel baffled in the regular season in two scoreless starts.
Six innings and 87 pitches later, the Yankees were no less confused about how to hit the Astros’ ace.Embed from Getty Images
Keuchel whiffed seven and allowed only three hits en route to a 3-0 victory in the Bronx, propelling the Astros to the American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals.
After struggling to find his command in the first inning, the lefty Keuchel was masterful as the game progressed. Early on in the game, home plate umpire Eric Cooper game both sides a little more of the plate, and Keuchel never looked back. With a devastating slider and deceptive changeup, he worked both corners the way other artists might work in oil, or clay.
Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka struggled, giving up home runs to outfielders Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez and loading the bases in the second inning. He was able to limit the damage to two runs over five innings, but in the end, Keuchel was too dominant to make it enough.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a controversial decision to bench left-hand hitting outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury in favor of Chris Young, a righty who excelled against lefty pitching in 2015, and start left-hander Brett Gardner. Gardner and Young combined to go 0-for-6 with four strikeouts, and Ellsbury popped out to short in a pinch-hit appearance in the eighth.Embed from Getty Images
The Yankees held on to a two-run deficit until the seventh, when Astros second baseman Jose Altuve pulled an outside slider from Yankees reliever Dellin Betances down the left field line for an RBI single.
Down 3-0, the Yanks looked to cut the lead down against the weak Astros bullpen. Instead, the ‘Stros pen held New York hitless over three scoreless innings.
In the end, Keuchel’s spectacular six innings quieted the Yankee Stadium crowd to a dull roar, and the Bronx bats seemed completely dead.
With the win, the Astros will play the Royals on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City in the best-of-five ALDS. Manager A.J. Hinch announced Wednesday Collin McHugh will get the start.
*All stats/information provided by espn.com