Astros’ Keuchel quiets hot Yankees bats

The Yankees found out for themselves Thursday night that the surprising Astros are for real. The Yankees had won seven of nine games at Houston’s Minute Maid Park before this game, which was all Astros behind the pitching of Dallas Keuchel.

The lefthander, who sports a mountaineer’s beard that has spawned hundreds of fake beards worn by Astros fans in his starts, tossed a six-hit shutout in spoiling the start of the Yanks’ seven-game trip to Houston and Anaheim.

The Yankees had 97 hits in their previous seven games, an average of nearly 14 hits per game, but they did not get a runner past first base against Keuchel until the ninth inning when they staged their only rally in the 4-0 loss. Alex Rodriguez singled to center with two out and became the Yankees’ first runner in scoring position when Mark Teixeira walked on four pitches. Keuchel fell behind 3-0 in the count to Carlos Beltran before giving up a hard single to left that loaded the bases.

After doing next to nothing against Keuchel for eight innings, the Yankees actually had the potential tying run at the plate in the ninth. Astros manager A.J. Hinch stayed with Keuchel rather than bring in a righthander what with four left-handed hitters on the Yankees’ bench in Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, Garrett Jones and Didi Gregorius. Keuchel then put down the uprising by getting Jose Pirela on a force play.

Pirela played left field, the first time he has played in the outfield as a pro, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to go as right-handed as possible against Keuchel. Stephen Drew, back from paternity leave, played shortstop and was the only left-handed batter in the lineup.

Keuchel retired 15 batters in a row from the fourth until A-Rod’s hit in the ninth. The walk to Teixeira was the only free pass issued by Keuchel, who set a personal best with 12 strikeouts. Rodriguez and Chase Headley each struck out three times against Keuchel. Beltran and Chris Young managed two hits apiece off Keuchel.

He led the American League in complete games last year with five. This was the third complete game of this season for Keuchel, who was the AL Pitcher of the Month in both April (3-0, 0.73 ERA) and May (4-1, 2.62 ERA). He is 2-2 with a 3.15 ERA this month and 9-3 with a 2.17 ERA for the season.

The home run derby that was anticipated by the league’s two leading slugging teams (the Astros have 107 homers, the Yanks 98) did not materialize. Yankees starter Adam Warren held George Springer, Carlos Correa and Danny Valbuena in check for the most part, but last year’s batting champ, Jose Altuve, had a big night with two doubles, a single, two stolen bases and three runs. Evan Gattis drove in two runs with a single and a double. Preston Tucker also doubled in a run, and Colby Rasmus added a sacrifice fly.

The Yankees did not help themselves defensively. Errors by Warren, Drew and catcher John Ryan Murphy all played parts in Astros rallies. Houston maintained its five-game lead in the AL West while the Yankees fell 1 1/2 games behind the Rays in the AL East and only a half-game ahead of the Orioles and Blue Jays.

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