Dallas Keuchel allowed three hits in six stellar innings on Tuesday as the Houston Astros ousted the New York Yankees from the playoffs with a 3-0 win in the American League wild card game.
Houston left fielder Colby Rasmus and center fielder Carlos Gomez hit solo home runs on the first pitches of the second and fourth innings off Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to help the Astros advance to an American League Division Series clash with the Kansas City Royals.
The Royals, trying to get back to the World Series after falling to the San Francisco Giants last year, host game one of that best-of-five series on Thursday.
Shortstop Jose Altuve singled in a run as the Astros won their first post-season game since they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in game six of the 2005 National League Championship Series — before realignment saw them move to the American League.
“Unbelievable,” said Keuchel, who was pitching on just three days’ rest for the first time in his major league career.
“To come to Yankee Stadium and play that well was truly remarkable,” he said.
“I felt like I’d never been on the mound before,” Keuchel added of the surge of excitement he felt in the first inning. “Luckily I was able to make a few pitches and get that first out of the game.”
The three runs were plenty for Keuchel, who hasn’t allowed a run in his last 29 innings against the Yankees.
Keuchel allowed a single to rookie first baseman Greg Bird with two outs in the second inning, then retired the next 10 batters he faced.
New York put runners at first and second on singles by shortstop Didi Gregorius and right fielder Carlos Beltran in the sixth. On the next pitch, designated hitter Alex Rodriguez flied out to center field, disappointing most of the sellout crowd of 50,113.
“He was incredible,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Keuchel, who struck out seven — including center fielder Brett Gardner three times. “That last out against A-Rod is the biggest out of the year for us.”
Astros pitcher Tony Sipp worked around a one-out walk to third baseman Chase Headley in the seventh. He struck out Bird on a full count and retired second baseman Rob Refsnyder on an easy flyout.
Houston reliever Will Harris pitched a hitless eighth, prompting scattered boos for the Yankees from some home fans. Astros closing pitcher Luke Gregerson struck out two in the ninth for the save.
– Tanaka mistakes –
Rasmus made it 1-0 when he opened the second by sending a Tanaka fastball over the right field fence. Gomez doubled the lead when he sent a Tanaka slider over the wall in left-center.
Altuve, who opened the game by striking out against Tanaka, made it 3-0 with a single up the middle in the seventh.
Tanaka allowed two runs and four hits in five innings.
“He just made some mistakes,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Tanaka, pitching his second game since returning from a strained right hamstring.
“He had the fastball that he kind of pulled to Rasmus. He left a breaking ball up for Gomez.
“You know, a lot of nights you give up two runs in five innings, you’ve got a pretty good chance to win,” Girardi added. “We just haven’t been able to solve Keuchel.”