Dallas Keuchel had a different catcher before throwing his first pitch for the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
Everything worked out just fine with Tim Federowicz behind the plate with the former AL Cy Young Award winner throwing some of his best breaking pitches all season.
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”Some of the shape it was taking early was really good. (Shin-Soo) Choo leading off the game, anytime you get him to swing and miss at a breaking pitch, it’s acting pretty good, and then (Nomar) Mazara struck out looking with a slider away,” Keuchel said. ”Both of those balls had good action and I knew from the then on if I could establish the fastball in to the lefties, it would be a good day.”
Josh Reddick and Tony Kemp homered for the Astros, who are 11-4 this season against their instate division rival, with seven consecutive road wins in the series. Houston is a majors-best 31-14 on the road this season.
Keuchel (5-8) struck out the first four batters he faced, and six of the first seven.
After catcher Brian McCann went on the disabled list and had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee earlier Tuesday, manager A.J. Hinch said Max Stassi would do the bulk of the catching. But Stassi got hit by a pitch batting in the first, and left the game with a bruised right (throwing) wrist before even taking the field on defense.
”I think we avoided a fracture, very good for us,” manager A.J. Hinch said. ”Got him pretty good in the wrist. Got a welt there, couldn’t flex his hand, hand so mobility.”
X-rays were negative and Stassi is considered day to day.
Keuchel had only thrown a few bullpens with Federowicz in spring training, and a live BP session, before the catcher was called back from Triple-A Fresno earlier Tuesday.
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Choo later walked twice and had two singles to extend his career-best on-base streak to 43 games, the longest in the majors since Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman’s 46-gamer two years ago. Choo is three games shy of Julio Franco’s team record of 46 in a row set 25 years ago.
The Astros used three relievers to get through the eighth. Texas already had a run in before Hector Rondon took over against pinch-hitter Joey Gallo, who worked a 12-pitch at-bat into a two-out walk to load the bases before Robinson Chirinos struck out. Rondon then worked the ninth for his sixth save in eight chances.
Houston went ahead to stay in the first when Yuli Gurriel and Reddick had RBI doubles off Austin Bibens-Dirkx (1-2), who still managed to get through six innings. He struck out four, walked two and hit two batters.
”To get through six in that situation was huge for us,” manager Jeff Banister said. ”Early on it didn’t look that it was going to be the case, a situation where really didn’t have a whole lot of sink on the fastball. … For us to still have an opportunity there through those innings, it was big-time by him.”
Astros: SS Carlos Correa, out since June 26 with lower back soreness, has been working out daily in Houston. Hinch said it was uncertain if Correa will be ready to play Friday when eligible to come off the DL. He hadn’t gone through any baseball activities yet.
Rangers: RHP Tony Barnette left the game after a 2-1 pitch to Marwin Gonzalez in the eighth. The Rangers said he had a right shoulder strain and would be evaluated further Wednesday. … 1B Ronald Guzman had two hits and scored twice after being activated from the seven-day concussion DL.
The Astros have homered in 23 consecutive road games, a club record and four from matching the MLB record set by Oakland earlier this season. … Before Bibens-Dirkx plunked Stassi in the first inning, Rangers pitchers had gone 22 games without hitting a batter – the longest span for the team since 1998.
DOUBLE DOUBLED UP
Astros leadoff hitter George Springer was in a 3-for-46 slide before a single in the sixth. But he was also doubled off twice on hard lineouts.
Gerrit Cole (9-2) will pitch on regular rest for the Astros after they made a slight tweak in their rotation. Lance McCullers Jr., who was scheduled to start, was instead pushed back to Friday. Rangers lefty Mike Minor (6-4) took a perfect game into the seventh inning of his last start, a win last Wednesday over the San Diego Padres.
While other players were prepping for this season at spring training, Jose Bautista was on his own.
A six-time All-Star without a big league job, Bautista remained eager to catch on somewhere and knew he needed to be resourceful. So to stay in game shape, the 37-year-old slugger spent his days back home in Florida hopping from gym workouts to local ballfields.
Sometimes he ended up at the University of Tampa, or Tampa Catholic High School. Wherever he could find an empty diamond to hit and do defensive drills.
”I was trying to mimic somewhat the same program [url=http://www.tampabaybuccaneersteamonline.com/jordan-whitehead-jersey]Authentic
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His agent helped him scrounge up batting-practice pitchers to simulate game situations as best they could. High school kids, college players, other free agents looking for work.
Bautista figures he got about 30 ”at-bats” or so in April, when the regular season was already underway for everyone else. All the while, the former Toronto Blue Jays star waited for a new opportunity.
”Yeah, different fields. Whatever was available and whatever people could get to,” he said.
Not exactly an ideal way to sharpen up for Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw. But after struggling through a 12-game stint with the Atlanta Braves in May, mostly at third base, Joey Bats has hardly missed a beat since arriving in New York. He had a .944 OPS over 35 games going into Sunday and had already batted in every spot for the Mets besides ninth.
”He never backed off,” teammate and close friend Jose Reyes said last week. ”He always was working.”
Next up, a nice reward.
On deck this week is the first trip for Bautista back to Toronto, where he blossomed into one of baseball’s best power hitters with the Blue Jays from 2008-17. The struggling Mets play interleague games at Rogers Centre on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Needless to say, he’s excited.