Astros 5, Phillies 0

Sitting on 99 losses, the Houston Astros had reason to blare the

celebration music in the postgame clubhouse Saturday night.

Lifted by an early lead and a strong start by Dallas Keuchel,

Houston blanked the Philadelphia Phillies 5-0 to temporarily avoid

a second consecutive 100-loss season.

Justin Maxwell hit a two-run home run, and Keuchel pitched 5 1-3

scoreless innings – allowing five hits and four walks- for his

first win in nearly three months, as the Astros beat Philadelphia

for the second time in three games.

The Phillies were slowed in their surge for an NL playoff spot

for the second time in three games by the worst team in the big

leagues. Philadelphia entered the day three games behind St. Louis

for the final wild-card spot. The Cardinals played the Dodgers

later Saturday.

Keuchel (2-7) admitted to being aware of the looming milestone

loss but said it didn’t affect his performance.

”Actually, I don’t normally pay attention to the wins and

losses, but I looked before the game and saw that we had 99

losses,” Keuchel said. ”But it’s nothing I worry about. I just

try to do my job and help the team win.”

It was Keuchel’s first win in 11 starts, since his previous

victory on June 23 against Cleveland.

”I’m real happy for Keuchel,” Astros manager Tony DeFrancesco

said. ”He battled out of a couple of tough jams, and I wanted to

make sure the kid got a win when he came out. I’m real proud of

him.”

Keuchel struggled with location early, walking two in the first

inning as the Phillies loaded the bases. But Keuchel got Ty

Wigginton to fly out to end the threat, and Philadelphia stranded

eight baserunners through the first four innings.

”The first inning for him has been a problem so far,”

DeFrancesco said. ”If we can get him confident from when he comes

out of the bullpen to when he crosses the line, he can do

well.”

Keuchel escaped another bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning to

frustrate the Phillies.

”He made pitches when he needed to,” Phillies catcher Erik

Kratz said.

In addition to raising Keuchel’s confidence, DeFrancesco said he

believed victories against teams competing for a spot in the

playoffs can bring a much needed morale boost.

”Today was the day where they all believed in themselves,”

DeFrancesco said. ”Tomorrow is another day. If we can be the

spoiler and give our guys some success and confidence, that’s what

we’re looking for.”

After Keuchel’s exit in the sixth, the Houston bullpen held on

for the Astros’ largest margin of victory in more than a month. The

Phillies finished with seven hits and 12 runners left on base.

Houston reliever Mickey Storey made his first appearance since

taking a line drive to the jaw area in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to

Chicago. Storey struck out the only two batters he faced, improving

his opponent’s batting average to .179 in 19 appearances this

season.

”If there’s an unsung hero in that bullpen, I think it has to

be Mickey Storey,” DeFrancesco said.

The Houston bullpen has posted a 3.27 ERA in 52 1-3 innings in

September, helping the Astros to a 7-7 record this month.

Wesley Wright allowed one hit to Kevin Frandsen with two outs in

the ninth inning before getting Chase Utley to ground out to end

the game.

”They had chances, but we made pitches,” DeFrancesco said.

”The ball went our way today.”

Kyle Kendrick (9-11) struggled early and was done after just

five innings, his shortest outing in more than a month. He gave up

four runs on seven hits, including a Maxwell’s homer in the first

inning. It was Maxwell’s 16th home run of the season. Jose Altuve

led off the inning with a single.

The Phillies blew a 4-0 lead in Friday’s 6-4 loss to Houston

(47-99) to open the four-game series, a loss that snapped a

seven-game winning streak.

Altuve, Brett Wallace and J.D. Martinez added RBIs for the

Astros, whose 34-23 record against Philadelphia since 2004 is tops

in the NL.

Altuve drove in Matt Dominguez in the second to make it 3-0

Astros. Wallace drove in a run with a ground-rule double in the

fifth inning.

NOTES: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he plans to start C

Carlos Ruiz every other game beginning Sunday. Ruiz, who pinch-hit

Saturday, continues to recover from plantar fasciitis in his left

foot, which landed him in the DL last month. . Astros infielder

Tyler Greene will start at 2B on Sunday as manager Tony DeFrancesco

gives Altuve some much-needed rest. … SS Jimmy Rollins stole two

bases, giving him 29 for the season, including a major

league-leading 12 steals of third base.