By Morris Phillips
The Astros’ Dallas Keuchel, quite simply, is the best starting pitcher in the AL West. Manager Bob Melvin and the A’s are well aware of this not-so-new development, didn’t need any reminders, but they got one anyway on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
Keuchel mowed down the A’s–he retired 10 consecutive batters, and 13 of 14 at one point–in the Astros’ 7-2 win in the series finale. The 29-year old righthander improved to 5-0 in April, validation that Keuchel has made impressions on a number of teams, not just the A’s.
“He’s got four pitches, and you just try to grind on him a little bit and stay close to him,” Melvin said of Keuchel. “Hopefully you can get him out of the game.”
The A’s did manage to get the Astro’s ace out of the ballgame, but manager A.J. Hinch’s hand wasn’t forced until their were two outs in the eighth inning and Houston held a 4-0 lead. Keuchel had thrown 99 pitches at that point, allowing a two-out base hit to Adam Rosales, his final batter.
It was the fifth consecutive start in which Keuchel has registered a quality start and thrown at least seven innings. As a comparison, he was just 3-0 in April 2015, the beginning of his Cy Young Award-winning season.
“That’s probably the best command I have had in awhile,” Keuchel said. “I’m going to continue to attack the zone and get some early contact and let the defense work.”
The A’s dropped two of the three games in the series, but managed to end a five-game losing streak with a 2-1 win on Saturday night. The Astros solidified their lead in the division, capping April with a 16th win, only the third time in the history of their franchise that they’ve won 16 times in the season’s opening month.
The A’s have Monday off, before resuming their road trip in Minnesota on Tuesday. Sonny Gray is expected to come off the disabled list and make his season debut in that one.