A milestone win for Dallas Keuchel would mean even more for the Houston Astros.
Keuchel aims for his 20th victory while attempting to keep the Astros atop a tight race for the AL’s second wild card Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Houston (85-75) is clinging to a one-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins as it enters Chase Field for the final three regular-season games. The Astros’ hopes for an AL West title are faint after Texas’ 5-3 win over the Angels on Thursday reduced the Rangers’ magic number to one.
A five-game skid from Sept. 14-18 that included four losses to Texas damaged their division chances, but the Astros have won seven of 11 since and overcame a three-run deficit for a critical 7-6 victory Thursday in Seattle.
”We’ve had to be resilient. We’ve been questioned all year," manager A.J. Hinch said. "We’ve had a few streaks that have been less than our best and we’ve come out of it very well each time. I didn’t doubt our character coming into this series and I don’t doubt it now.”
Colby Rasmus’ broken-bat single snapped a 6-all tie in the seventh inning and Chris Carter hit his fourth homer in five games, a key three-run shot in the fifth.
Keuchel (19-8, 2.47 ERA) also has bounced back from a rough 4 2-3-inning outing Sept. 16 at Texas in which he surrendered season highs of nine runs, 11 hits and three homers. The AL Cy Young Award candidate held the Angels to a run over 7 2-3 innings in a 6-3 home win five days later, then struck out 10 while yielding one run and two hits through seven Sunday against Texas for his AL-best 19th victory.
He can become the eighth Astro to reach 20 wins and first since Roy Oswalt did so in 2004 and ’05.
Keuchel allowed two runs across six innings in a 9-2 win over Arizona on Aug. 1 at Minute Maid Park, where he’s 15-0. He’s 1-5 with a 4.62 ERA in his last six road starts, however, and was tagged for six runs in 3 1-3 innings in losing his lone start at Chase Field in 2012.
The Houston ace has held Paul Goldschmidt to one hit in 10 at-bats with six strikeouts.
Goldschmidt went 2 for 3 with an RBI and two runs scored to help the surging Diamondbacks sweep a three-game set from Colorado with Thursday’s 8-6 victory. Arizona (78-81) has won four straight and nine of 13, giving itself a chance to finish .500 after losing a MLB-high 98 games last season.
”It’s a chance for us to sort of play our October baseball these three games. So we’re going to give it everything we’ve got," manager Chip Hale said. "Our bullpen’s rested. Our position players know how important this is for us to play at a high level like we’ve been playing."
Welington Castillo knocked in three runs Thursday, two on a go-ahead double during a four-run seventh.
Rubby De La Rosa (14-8, 4.56) has two wins during Arizona’s hot stretch and bids for his 15th in his final start. After allowing one hit in 5 2-3 innings of a 2-0 victory at San Francisco Sept. 18, he allowed two earned runs over 5 2-3 at San Diego on Sept. 25.
The right-hander permitted four runs on homers by Jason Castro and Carlos Correa in six innings of a 6-4 defeat at Houston on July 31, and Carter is 2 for 2 with a homer against him.
De La Rosa likely won’t have to face Evan Gattis, however, as the Astros’ leader in homers (27) and RBIs (87) is expected to sit with the designated hitter not in use.