NEW YORK (AP) – The Houston Astros heated up their bullpen in a hurry, but it didn’t make any difference. Not on this night, not in a ballpark that kept pulsating with every pitch.
No matter who manager A.J. Hinch signaled for, the New York Yankees would not be stopped. Somehow, the Astros squandered a late four-run lead and fell 6-4 Tuesday, and now find themselves tied at two games apiece in the AL Championship Series.
At least Hinch’s next move is an easy call: Bring on the beard.
Dallas Keuchel will take the mound Wednesday in Game 5, with Houston hoping he can extend his remarkable run against the Yankees.
“Obviously this next game, Dallas Keuchel, he’s pretty good at getting deep in the game,” Hinch said. “We’ll hand the ball to this bullpen with the lead tomorrow feeling good about it, if that’s the case.”
Keuchel is prepared for a nice pregame reception, too. Bronx cheers, mostly.
“You get boos against the Evil Empire at the home turf, it makes you feel good just because you’re doing your job correctly,” Keuchel said, hours before Houston blew a tremendous chance to move within one win of the World Series.
Keuchel has been almost automatic against the Yankees, especially in October.
The lefty ace pitched seven shutout innings and struck out 10 to win Game 1. The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner capped off that season by throwing six scoreless innings to win the Wild-Card game at Yankee Stadium .
Overall, he has a 1.09 ERA in 57 2/3 innings against the Yanks. Oh, and he hasn’t given up a home run in that span.
“We expect Dallas to be Dallas tomorrow,” said Joe Musgrove, one of three ineffective Houston relievers in the loss.
Musgrove, Chris Devenski and Ken Giles all struggled after Aaron Judge’s leadoff homer in the seventh made it 4-1 and finished starter Lance McCullers Jr. Nine of the first 13 batters who faced the Houston bullpen reached base as the decibel level kept climbing.
“I think you’re always confident when Dallas is on the hill,” McCullers said. “I don’t really think it matters on what team we’re facing or his past success or non-success against a team.”
“If he’s right, and he’s been looking awesome pretty much all season, we feel very confident with him on the hill,” he added. “We have Game 5 here tomorrow, hopefully win that one, go back home with a 3-2 lead and finish it up at home.”
Keuchel will oppose Masahiro Tanaka in a rematch of the opener, won by Houston 2-1 at Minute Maid Park.
“I mean, that’s always in the back of your head. You know he’s pitching tomorrow. When he pitched Game 1, I knew he was pitching Game 5,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
“We haven’t done a whole lot off of him in the starts we’ve seen off him,” he said. “Hopefully, seeing him twice in one series, our guys are able to adjust a little quicker.”
With his bushy beard, Keuchel is easily recognizable around town, be it Houston or New York. No different during this trip to the Big Apple.
“People always are going to have choice words for you. So I fully expect that,” he said.
“There’s two joys that I really take pride in, and that’s when I’m warming up in the visitors’ bullpen and getting heckled by fans because they’ve had some beverages,” he said. “Usually there’s a funnel cake or like a hot dog, which smells really good.”
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