Keuchel back to inducing grounders en masse

Keuchel back to inducing grounders en masse

HOUSTON -- When asked how important it was for Dallas Keuchel to have his ground-ball rate back to normal, Astros manager A.J. Hinch went a step further.

"I think it's through the roof," he said.

Keuchel relied on pitching down in the zone and recorded eight ground-ball outs in the Astros' 5-1 win Wednesday over the Angels at Minute Maid Park, including double-play grounders in the first, second and fifth innings. He held the Angels to one run and eight hits and struck out seven batters in seven innings to improve to 3-0 in four starts.

Keuchel induces double play

"I think we're getting exactly what you would expect," Hinch said. "When I hand the ball to Dallas every five days, at his best he's keeping the ball on the ground and missing some bats. He did both of those tonight. He came up big. He could have gone out for the eighth inning. He's very strong at the end of his outings, which I'm very happy about."

Through four starts, Keuchel had a 65.8 percent ground-ball rate (minimum 25 batted balls), according to Statcast™, which is among the highest in the league. He has allowed a .188 (9-for-48) batting average on ground balls this year. Last year, his ground-ball rate was 58.3 percent, which ranked fourth among 90 pitchers with 200-plus total batted balls. His batting average allowed on those balls was .234.

Keuchel's heads-up play

"Always the game plan is two-seam away and work off that," Keuchel said. "It was pretty evident they were looking out over the plate and put a few good swings on me early, so [we] made the adjustments to go and throw some cutters and four-seams and get them off the two-seam. I always rely on [catcher Brian] McCann to let me know what he sees behind the plate first."

Keuchel got Mike Trout to hit into a 5-4-3 double play in the first. Andrelton Simmons hit into a 3-6-3 double play in the second, and Yunel Escobar ended the fifth with a 4-6-3 double play. That inning began with a Danny Espinosa double, but he was thrown out at third when Martin Maldonado unwisely tried to bunt against the three-time Gold Glove Award winner.

Keuchel on gem vs Angels

"I was trying to get some early contact," Keuchel said. "It just seemed like everybody was on base, so I was working through some traffic early. That's a tough lineup, especially with all those righties. They mix some power and speed in there. Luckily I navigated through some of the big boys. That wasn't the way I drew it up, but I'll take it. That was a nice victory for us coming off a loss."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia thought Maldonado had worked a walk against Keuchel in the fifth.

"Unfortunately, we didn't get that call," he said. "I thought we battled him. He's good. He had the ball down, he got the ground balls when he needed it. But I thought we had a good approach against him."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.