Keuchel, Houston's other ace, faces Rangers

By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange
Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros square off with the Texas Rangers on Friday. Photo by Thomas. B Shea/UPI
Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros square off with the Texas Rangers on Friday. Photo by Thomas. B Shea/UPI | License Photo

If Justin Verlander is the Houston Astros' No. 1 pitcher, Dallas Keuchel, a Cy Young Award winner in his own right, is definitely 1A.

After riding a dominating six-inning, pitching performance from Verlander and home runs by George Springer and Jake Marisnick in Thursday's 4-1 Opening Day win over Texas, the Astros hand the ball to Keuchel on Friday at Globe Life Park in search of a win against their Lone Star State rivals in the teams' season-opening four-game series.


Keuchel (14-5, 2.90 ERA last season) will oppose Texas' right-hander Doug Fister (5-9, 4.88 ERA for Boston in 2017) in the matchup. Keuchel is 8-8 and carries a 4.02 ERA in his career against the Rangers. He won three of his four outings against Texas in 2017.


Keuchel, who pitched with an undisclosed left foot injury during the second half of the 2017 campaign and throughout the team's run to the World Series title in October, said Thursday that he's "extremely ready" to start his season.

"Through the course of spring training, I've prepared well for the season," Keuchel said. "I used the routine from the past couple years to get to this point, and it's become kind of second nature to me now."

Fister, who pitched for the Astros in 2016, will make his debut for Texas on Friday after being acquired as a free agent in the offseason. Fister is 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA (seven earned runs in 18.1 innings pitched) over three career starts versus Houston.

Verlander scattered four hits in six shutout innings on Thursday. Verlander (1-0) struck out five, walked two and hit a batter in his 90-pitch performance in outdueling Texas ace Cole Hamels (0-1).

Verlander is now 10-1 in the regular season since being acquired by the Astros from Detroit in a trade-deadline deal on Aug. 31.

Thanks to Springer, the Astros led the start. For the second straight year, Springer led off the game and the season with a home run on Hamels' third pitch to put Houston up 1-0 in a blink of the eye.


Last season, Springer belted a leadoff homer off Seattle's Felix Hernandez in the Astros' season-opening 3-0 win against the Mariners.

Jose Altuve drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third to give the Astros a 2-0 lead. In the next inning, Marisnick blasted a homer 397 feet over the left field fence for a 3-0 Houston advantage.

Hamels was lifted after 5 2/3 innings of work in which he allowed three runs (all earned) on seven hits with four walks and seven strikeouts.

"Cole settled in and mixed his pitches well, and recorded some outs by changing speeds," Texas manager Jeff Banister said. "He was challenged to find his range with his fastball, but both Cole and Verlander seemed to have some trouble with the mound, and that was a factor."

Both teams had six hits in the season-opener. Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre had two hits each for the Rangers, who didn't score until the ninth off Houston closer Ken Giles.

Andrus led off with a double and eventually scored on a wild pitch by Giles.


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