DETROIT — Drew Smyly and Dallas Keuchel are going to have to cancel their college reunion.
They were roommates at Arkansas, where they were the 1-2 punch in one of college baseball’s best rotations, but Smyly wasn’t in a mood to hang out after he and the Tigers lost 6-2 to Keuchel’s Astros in their first major-league matchup.
"I’m not going to want to talk to him for a while," Smyly said Thursday afternoon, trying to joke despite obvious frustration. "I thought he would pitch well against us, but he’s a lefty, and with our lineup, I thought we would be able to get to him. He just never let that happen."
Keuchel pitched into the eighth, only allowing two runs on six hits. One of the runs came on Victor Martinez’s third homer of the four-game series, but the Tigers only had one runner in scoring position after the fourth inning.
"He’s a really smart pitcher," Smyly said. "He’s not going to overpower anyone, but he’s a bulldog and he gets a lot of ground balls. He was good today as I’ve seen him, so I tip my cap to him."
Smyly wasn’t the only Tiger impressed by Keuchel’s performance.
"He’s tough, because he’s got a lot of different pitches and he has a slide step that lets him give you different looks," said Nick Castellanos, who drove in Detroit’s only other run with a second-inning double. "I think he might have thrown me two pitches all game that looked the same. Everything else was different, and it is tough to pick them up."
Brad Ausmus agreed, refusing to take any of credit away from Keuchel.
"This game was his," he said. "You want to be patient against a guy and look for a pitch to hit, but he had deception and movement today, and when you’ve got that combination, you end up with two strikes on you before you see anything you can hit. He just didn’t give us many opportunities. That was a great game."
Smyly pitched fairly well himself, but he was angry about letting the game get away in Houston’s three-run fifth inning. George Springer pulled the Astros within 2-1 with his first career homer, but Smyly had two outs and no one on before walking Carlos Corporan. L.J. Hoes singled and, on the 10th pitch of the next at-bat, Jose Altuve gave the Astros the lead with a double to left.
"Springer hit a first pitch fastball, and that happens," Smyly said. "He’s a major-league hitter. Congratulations to him. The two-out walk is where I gave the game away. I could have been out of the inning, but I walk a guy, and then I let Hoes hit the single, and then I can’t put Altuve away."
I’m not going to want to talk to him for a while.
Smyly thought he had struck out Altuve out, but home-plate umpire Mike Muchlinski didn’t ring him up on a fastball on the edge of the zone.
"I don’t know what to say about it," Smyly said. "I thought it was strike three, but he’s making the calls and he called it a ball. End of story."
So, no, Smyly wasn’t donning the traditional Razorback hat and catching up with Keuchel after the day game. As for Keuchel’s opinion of his old buddy’s performance?
He didn’t watch.
"I honestly didn’t see a single pitch from him," he said. "I was in the tunnel. It was kind of hot today for Detroit right now, and I was just trying to stay cool as much as possible."
Keuchel might have been exaggerating the heat — the game-time temperature was only 77 degrees — but you can’t argue with his results.