HOUSTON -- Left-hander Dallas Keuchel earned the 2015 American League Cy Young Award in part because of his uncanny ability to deliver exceptional starts when the Astros sorely needed them. He reprised that role on Friday night, uplifting a slumping team against a division rival.
Keuchel (7-11), shelled by the Tigers in Detroit on Sunday, surrendered two walks against seven strikeouts while stifling the Rangers (63-47) with his unique talent to induce ground balls. Keuchel ended a personal three-game skid to Texas in which he allowed four-plus earned runs in each of his three previous appearances this season.
Keuchel produced his 10th career complete game and fourth career shutout. His hits total marked a career best in a complete game. Keuchel recorded 18 groundball outs during his 111-pitch masterpiece.
"It seemed like an eternity since I had my last one," Keuchel said of the complete game. "First of all, credit goes to (catcher Evan Gattis) for his pitch selection and game management.
"I just went off him. I had to shake a few times, but we were pretty much on the same game plan. He made me look good back there."
Keuchel scuffled in the first inning, allowing a pair of hits and a two-out walk to Adrian Beltre. But he induced a double-play ground ball off the bat of Ian Desmond to stall the momentum and capped the inning by getting Rougned Odor to ground out to first baseman Marwin Gonzalez.
After breezing through the ensuing seven frames with just two baserunners allowed, Keuchel surrendered a two-out double to Beltre in the ninth. But he closed his night in a manner similar to how he capped the first inning, getting an Odor grounder to the right side of the infield.
"He made his pitches in the strike zone or close enough for them to have to deal with them," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Just a really gutsy performance at a time when we needed it."
Said Beltre of Keuchel: "We saw the same guy that won the Cy Young last year. He relies on throwing the ball on the corners. Make you chase, keeping the ball down and that's what he tried to do."
The Astros (57-52) tagged Rangers left-hander Martin Perez (7-8) for four runs in the third inning to snap their prolonged offensive funk.
Altuve, who finished 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs, began the deluge in the third with an RBI double to left field that scored Jake Marisnick, who opened the frame with a single. Carlos Correa added an opposite-field, two-run single that scored Alex Bregman and Altuve. Bregman, who walked ahead of Altuve, scored his first career run.
Tyler White capped the onslaught with a run-scoring single to left, pushing home Correa and completing an inning that finally yielded something substantial. It marked the first time the Astros scored three or more runs in a frame since the eighth inning at Detroit on July 29.
"Just a couple pitches got away, just got the ball in the middle and they hit the ball well," said Perez, who allowed five runs on eight hits and three walks over seven innings. "But after that just stayed in the game and couldn't score some runs."
NOTES: Astros pitchers set a major league record with 61 strikeouts against the Blue Jays, the most strikeouts by a pitching staff in a series of any length. The Phillies had 59 strikeouts against the Mets during a five-game series May 29-June 2, 2014. But those totals haven't saved an offense that has scored just seven runs in six games. "We're not playing miserably in every aspect of the game, it's just when you don't hit or produce as many runs offensively it feels tough," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. ... Rangers manager Jeff Banister gave C Jonathan Lucroy the day off in deference to the hectic schedule Lucroy has faced after his acquisition from the Brewers on Monday at the non-waiver trade deadline. Robinson Chirinos started behind the plate, with Lucroy scheduled to be back in the lineup Saturday. ... Banister plans to give Carlos Beltran his first start in right field on Saturday. Beltran, acquired from the Yankees on Monday, served as the designated hitter for a fourth consecutive game on Friday night. He played 58 games in right field for the Yankees before the trade.