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Keuchel and Astros blank Yankees
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 08 - 10 - 2015

(From L) Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro, relief pitcher Luke Gregerson, third baseman Luis Valbuena, and infielder Marwin Gonzalez, celebrate the Astros 3-0 shutout of the New York Yankees in the American League wild-card baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York Tuesday. — AP


NEW YORK — Houston's Dallas Keuchel and his relievers shut out New York and led the Astros to a 3-0 win at Yankee Stadium Tuesday in the American League wild-card game.
Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez each homered in the opening game of this year's playoffs, as Houston advanced to the AL Division Series against Kansas City, starting Thursday.
Keuchel, who did not allow a run in 16 innings pitched against the Yankees in the regular season, continued that streak as he worked through six scoreless frames despite backing up on three days' rest for the first time in his career.
Keuchel, 20-8 this season and pitching on three days' rest for the first time, silenced the New York crowd of 50,000 by running his scoreless streak against the pinstripes to 22 innings in 2015.
“Nobody really gave us anything at the start of the year. And I don't think anybody gave us a shot at the end of the year,” said Keuchel, the AL's only 20-game winner.
Rasmus sent Masahiro Tanaka's first pitch of the second inning soaring into the right-field seats, while Gomez connected on the Japanese pitcher's first offering in the fourth.
“That really settled me down, and that's who we are,” Keuchel said. “We hit a lot of home runs, pitch well and play defense.”
AL hits leader Jose Altuve had an RBI single off All-Star reliever Dellin Betances in the seventh to complete the scoring.
Houston reliever Tony Sipp walked one, and Will Harris and Luke Gregerson were each perfect for an inning to finish the three-hitter.
“Now we get to go to Kansas City. It's going to be some grind-it-out baseball,” Rasmus said. “We have to come in there the way we came in tonight.”
The Yankees lost six of seven to close the regular season. Then before working out Monday, they learned pitcher C.C. Sabathia was checking into an alcohol rehab facility and would miss the playoffs.
Despite all the talk of a playoff reset for the struggling lineup, New York went bust against its new nemesis in Keuchel, in the Yankees' first postseason game of the post-Derek Jeter era.
“Just didn't get it done,” manager Joe Girardi said. Fans taunted the bearded 27-year-old Keuchel the moment he walked to the outfield for warm-ups. Then he toyed with the Yankees from the first batter, striking out Brett Gardner looking.
“It's hard not to get up for a game like this,” Keuchel said. “I've worked so hard the last four years in the big leagues, especially with rebuilding with our team. I knew if we had a shot, I was going to give everything I possibly could.”
When he gave up two singles in the sixth — bringing the hopeful crowd to its feet with Alex Rodriguez stepping into the batter's box — manager A.J. Hinch walked to the mound to give Keuchel a breather. Keuchel responded by getting A-Rod to fly out lazily to center field for his final out.
“'He was as good as it gets,” Rodriguez said. “He was Greg Maddux from the left side.” Tanaka struggled with the long ball, giving up 25 homers in 24 starts this year. He only allowed two other hits in his five innings but matched a season worst with three walks.
Astros were Major League Baseball doormats for many years, but their promising young players have developed into prime-time performers.
“It makes me feel complete. When you see the guys happy, that means we are doing our job right,” said 25-year-old second baseman Jose Altuve of Venezuela in the bubbly-soaked locker room.
Houston suffered three successive seasons of more than 100 losses from 2011, and last year posted a 70-92 record before improving to 86-76 in 2015.
Youngsters like Altuve, 21-year-old Carlos Correa and 26-year-old George Springer have combined with veterans to become winners. — Agencies


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