Astros score 21 to back Keuchel’s 20th win, close in on playoff spot
PHOENIX — A playoff berth tantalizingly close, the Houston Astros sent their ace to the mound seeking his 20th victory.
And broke loose for the highest-scoring game in team history.
Dallas Keuchel became the AL’s first 20-game winner and the Astros routed the Arizona Diamondbacks 21-5 Friday night.
"We showed up at the right time," manager A.J. Hinch said.
Hinch had worried about playing without a designated hitter during this final series because he’s in an NL park. At least on this night, he needn’t have.
"I don’t want to play the National League style at the end of the season because I want the DH," he said, "but this game is crazy. Sometimes strange things happen. This is a hitter-friendly park with the roof open, and we came out swinging and did a lot of damage."
The Astros have won five of six and held their one-game edge over the Los Angeles Angels for the second AL wild card. Minnesota fell two behind.
Houston trails AL West leader Texas by two games with two to play.
Keuchel (20-8) gave up two runs and six hits in six innings, becoming the Astros’ first 20-game winner since Roy Oswalt went 20-12 in 2005.
The left-hander downplayed the achievement.
"It’s nice to get a win," Keuchel said, "and it’s nice to be appreciated, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do."
The AL wild-card game is scheduled for Tuesday, and the Yankees have already clinched a spot. If Keuchel pitches, it would mark the first time the All-Star lefty has started on three days’ rest.
Hinch didn’t want to talk about that. Asked if he was comfortable with Keuchel pitching Tuesday, the manager said: "To be honest with you I’m comfortable with (Collin) McHugh pitching tomorrow in a really important game. That’s as far as I’ll look."
Carlos Correa hit a solo homer, bases-loaded triple and scored four times. George Springer, Colby Rasmus and Luis Valbuena homered as Houston surpassed its previous high of 19 runs set twice, most recently against Pittsburgh in 1999.
Springer and Rasmus also scored four times each as the Astros got a season-high 19 hits.
Keuchel is the 10th Astros pitcher, and second Houston left-hander, to win 20 games. Lefty Mike Hampton was 22-4 in 1999.
Keuchel became the second 20-game winner in the majors. The Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta won his 22nd on Friday.
Rubby De La Rosa (14-9) lasted three innings.
Arizona committed a season-worst four errors that led to five unearned runs. The Diamondbacks set a club record for runs allowed, topping the 20 they gave up at Colorado in 2003.
"We just couldn’t slow them down," manager Chip Hale said. "Tonight we will take a shower and get rid of this game and have a better one tomorrow."
Peter O’Brien, a top Arizona prospect and a September call-up, hit a 471-foot shot into the picnic area in left field off Keuchel for his first big league home run.
"That was one of the few bright spots," Hale said.
Errors by Arizona third baseman Aaron Hill and left fielder Yasmany Tomas cleared the way for five runs in the first two innings. The Astros built a 10-2 lead through six, then entered club-record territory with a seven-run seventh and four-run eighth.
Springer’s headfirst slide just beat right fielder Socrates Brito’s’ throw at the plate for a run in the first. Twenty more followed.
Houston improved to 15-3 in interleague games, 7-1 on the road.
In case of a tiebreaker game for the wild-card berth, Houston would travel to Minnesota if it’s the Twins; the Astros would be home if it’s the Angels. Houston last made the postseason in 2005 when the club was still in the National League.
Astros: OF Carlos Gomez sat out with sore ribs.
Diamondbacks: OF Ender Inciarte was out of the lineup after hitting a ball off his shin Thursday night. OF David Peralta injured his right wrist diving for a ball Thursday night. An MRI was negative but he did not play.
Astros: McHugh (18-7), the second half of Houston’s potent 1-2 pitching duo, tries to clinch at least a tie for the second wild card.
Diamondbacks: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (9-11) makes his final start of the season.