Starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros makes having a nicely groomed beard look pretty darn good from the mound. It also doesn’t hurt when he goes into AL West enemy territory facing a Los Angeles Angels lineup with 1B Albert Pujols and OF Mike Trout in it and spins eight scoreless frames. If it weren’t for Trout legging out an infield single in the bottom of the ninth with two out, Keuchel would have thrown back-to-back shutouts.
The 26-year-old Tulsa native lowered his season ERA from 3.06 to 2.92 and right now warrants a potential All-Star nod more than anyone else on the Astros pitching staff — maybe even the entire team. Coming off a brilliant complete game shutout on May 3 of another offensive juggernaut in the Texas Rangers, Keuchel had his shutout innings streak up to 17 but lost it after exiting Monday’s contest with two runners on. Astros reliever Josh Zeid would go on to allow a two-run triple to 2B Howie Kendrick before recording the final out of the game in a 5-2 victory.
These numbers are still fairly remarkable, given Keuchel’s recent competition. Keuchel’s division boasts the first (Oakland Athletics) and fifth (Angels) highest scoring teams in all of MLB. He’s faced them a combined three times already in 2014, so an ERA of under 3.00 truly does give the Astros organization reason for optimism with Keuchel’s future. His numbers are also impressive when you consider he’s a southpaw who plays his home games at Minute Maid Park, which tends to be quite hitter friendly, especially to right-handed batters. On the season now, Keuchel is 5-2 with 55 strikeouts across 61. 2 innings pitched.
The key to Keuchel’s success is in his groundball-to-flyball ratio, which leads the league coming into tonight’s game at 2.09. That being said, he may throw the most effective sinker in MLB when he’s on his game. It tips the radar gun at 88-90 mph and is no doubt a large component of his success. If this success continues, there’s no reason he should not be at Target Field in Minneapolis on Jul. 15, possibly as the lone representative for his ball club at this year’s Midsummer Classic.