Houston Astros’ starter Dallas Keuchel talked to reporters about his opponent on the mound in tonight’s Game 5 of the ALCS before the Yankees rallied to take Game 4 last night in dramatic fashion, with a four-run eighth that put them ahead and evened things up at 2-2 in the American League’s Championship Series.
Keuchel has matched up against Masahiro Tanaka twice in the Postseason, facing the right-hander in the AL Wild Card Game in 2015 and Game 1 of this year’s ALCS, coming out on top in both starts, in spite of the Yankees’ right-hander’s efforts in each outing.
“Well, one, he's a very good pitcher,” Keuchel told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
“And if it weren't for some extraordinary performances we'd be singing his praises multiple times.
“When I've pitched against him in the regular season and in the postseason, it's a feeling that you have to be on top of your game because there's not going to be a lot of runs produced from our part. That brings a challenge in itself.
“But he's handled this media, this city, this team very well. And that in itself is pretty impressive, too, coupled with the fact that he's a very, very good pitcher.”
Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi was asked after last night’s victory if he had thought about the fact that they would have to face Keuchel tonight with the season on the line if they hadn’t rallied for what ended up a 6-4 win.
“I mean, that's always in the back of your head,” Girardi said. “You know he's pitching tomorrow. When he pitched Game 1 I knew he was pitching Game 5.
“But no, I was focused on trying to keep it as close as we could. Give us a chance to win. Bullpen, just do your job, and they did. You get a brilliant performance from Sonny Gray. Just brilliant. Really, really good today. For a guy that hasn't been on the mound in a setting like this for 11 days, that's really big.”
Keuchel tossed seven scoreless against the Yankees in his Game 1 start, striking out 10 of the 26 batters he faced in what ended up a 2-1 win. Astros’ skipper A.J. Hinch talked last night about being two wins away from the pennant with Keuchel and then Justin Verlander lined up to start the next two games, which, he acknowledged, is not a bad spot to be in.
“No question,” Hinch said. “This is a great series. This is two really good teams fighting for the chance to represent the American League. I don't think anyone thought the series was over two games ago. These have been two exciting games for the Yankees.
“But you've got to win four to advance, and no one has won four yet.”