One likely hero stepped up for the Houston Astros, while another more unlikely star emerged in their 4-2 win over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, giving the Astros a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-five Division Series.
Dallas Keuchel took the mound and he did what Dallas Keuchel does—and that’s control the game. The lefty rolled through seven innings and was only touched once—when Lorenzo Cain uncorked a moonshot home run that reminded me of Albert Pujols’ epic blast in this building back in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS. Cain’s was a solo shot and it was the only damage the potent Royals’ offense was able to do to Keuchel.
Chris Carter was a less likely hero. He hit a buck-99 during the season and as one who has owned him on and off in Fantasy Leagues, he’s never really come through. He did yesterday. Carter hit a home run of his own, part of a 3-for-3 day.
Other key hits came Jason Castro, who delivered a two-RBI single that gave Houston the lead right after the Cain home run. Carlos Gomez came up with a big two-out RBI hit that made it 3-1, coming right of the heels of an Evan Gattis strikeout that looked ready to leave a runner dying on third.
Houston has a shot to clinch at home this afternoon and another one on Wednesday in Kansas City if necessary. But Keuchel is finished for the series, unless we see a relief appearance on two days’ rest in KC. Even in a 2-1 series hole, the Royals still have to like their chances against the rest of the Houston staff.
Elsewhere in the Lone Star State, the Texas Rangers failed in their first of three chances to clinch. The game ended 5-1 and was 2-0 into the seventh inning, but that doesn’t show how completely the Blue Jays were in charge. They were on the attack, constantly filling the basepaths with runners and only some stellar Ranger defense—four double plays—kept the game close.
After one of those double-plays, a first-to-home-to-first masterpiece with the bases loaded started by Mitch Moreland, Toronto’s Troy Tulowitzki had seen enough. He just jacked one over the left field fence to blow the game open. Texas never made it interesting offensively, with Jays starter Marco Estrada turning in an excellent performance.
We move into another four-game festival of baseball on Monday. Texas and Houston each have chances to clinch at home, while the pivotal Game 3s of both NL series will take place. Here’s the schedule…
1 PM: Royals-Astros (FoxSports1): Kansas City is coming back with Game 1 starter Yordano Ventura on three days’ rest, which almost certainly means Johnny Cueto in Game 5 if necessary.
4 PM: Blue Jays-Rangers (FoxSports1): R.A. Dickey takes the ball here. I’m going to make a second-guess here and say I’d pitch Mark Buehrle due to more postseason experience.
6 PM: Cardinals-Cubs (TBS): How loud will Wrigley be tonight with Jake Arrieta on the mound and a chance to take control of the first-ever postseason series against the Cardinals?
8:30 PM: Dodgers-Mets (TBS): The bad blood is running in this series after the Chase Utley-Ruben Tejada incident. Utley is appealing his suspension and will play. Will Matt Harvey plunk someone in retaliation?