HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel, fresh off a 15-0 regular season at Minute Maid Park, needed to muster everything in his arsenal to pick up win No. 16.
Keuchel threw a season-high 124 pitches and worked out of several jams, and first baseman Chris Carter contributed a home run, double and single to lead the Houston Astros to a 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. The Astros can advance to the AL Championship Series with a victory over the Royals on Monday.
The only blemish for Keuchel was Lorenzo Cain's solo homer in the fourth. Keuchel struck out Alex Gordon to strand Mike Moustakas in the sixth inning and whiffed Cain to strand a pair of runners in the seventh before giving way to the Houston bullpen.
Carter, who hit 24 home runs this season while batting a mere .199, contributed a big double off Edinson Volquez in the fifth and a long home run off Danny Duffy in the seventh to give Houston a 4-1 lead.
Thumbs up: The Astros had no idea what to expect from center fielder Carlos Gomez after he missed the first two games of the series with an intercostal strain. But when manager A.J. Hinch penciled Gomez into the starting lineup in the No. 6 spot in the order, he could be sure his center fielder would go full-bore.
“I just know this guy in the biggest moments can really help you win,” Hinch said. “And we want him to give us everything he has, and I know he will.”
Sure enough, with Houston clinging to a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth, Gomez lined a first-pitch fastball from Volquez to center field to score George Springer and extend the Astros’ advantage to two runs. It was a huge hit at the time.
Thumbs down: Not a great day for Jose Altuve, who went hitless in four at-bats with a strikeout and a double-play groundout. Evan Gattis went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and stranded a small village. He’s 2-for-16 in the postseason.
What’s next: Rookie Lance McCullers, who went 6-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 regular-season starts, will try to pitch the Astros to a spot in the LCS on Monday. McCullers struck out 129 batters in 125⅔ innings this year. So when he’s on his game, he can be a handful.