The Houston Astros were hoping to retain their AL West division lead on Wednesday night behind ace and Cy Young candidate Dallas Keuchel, but it just didn't happen.
Keuchel, trying to subdue the Texas Rangers so the Astros could return to a one and a half-game lead in the West, imploded instead. Six first-inning runs by the Rangers blitzed him early and put the game out of reach, with Keuchel eventually allowing a career-worst nine runs and 11 hits in less than five innings of work.
Instead of helping the Astros stay in first, Keuchel's struggles pushed them a game and a half behind the Rangers with one more contest left in this four-game set. MLB.com's Brian McTaggart commended Keuchel for being readily available and accomodating after the game to speak with the media, which must have been difficult given the circumstances.
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"It's extremely disappointing, just because I couldn't help the guys out like I normally do," Keuchel said to the media, as quoted by McTaggart. "I know they were kind of leaning on me to kind of go out there and perform. That's a good lineup right now."
Keuchel's ERA jumped from 2.22 to 2.56, allowing David Price of the Toronto Blue Jays to assume the ERA leaderboard in the AL. Manager A.J. Hinch said that the Rangers' hitters effectively 'ambushed' Keuchel, swinging early and often and taking advantage of him being uncharacteristically up in the strike zone with his pitches.
Despite the result, Hinch also gave Keuchel some credit: "I just told him I appreciate his effort. This guy has been terrific for us all year, and even trying to get the last out, I really wanted him to leave the game on his own, getting the outs, and they put together an inning and he was trying. I just told him, 'It just wasn't [your] day.' I did appreciate how he went about it. Even after the six-run inning, he came in, he was the same in the dugout preparing, talking through the hitters."
It was an very rough night for the Astros in what's shaping up to be a nightmare series, with one game remaining on Thursday evening.