Dallas Keuchel shines as Astros, Nationals tie 1-1
VIERA, Fla. (AP) Last year's American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel worked against a stacked Washington lineup Monday and allowed just one hit over three innings as the Astros tied the Nationals 1-1.
The left-hander retired the first eight men - including stars Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman - before giving up a hit to journeyman Brendan Ryan. He struck out four and was particularly effective working the inside part of the plate to both right-handers and left-handers.
''I felt a lot better than last time out,'' Keuchel said. ''I made some progress with fastball command and really made it a point to throw inside to everyone of their players, top to bottom.
''It's just a good lineup to face because they're very quality major league hitters and if you leave the ball over the plate, they'll punish it.''
Astros manager A.J. Hinch said it was vintage Keuchel.
''The sinker was real effective today,'' Hinch said. ''The wind was obviously helping him, but he was trying to throw the ball right down the middle and it was sinking in pretty well.''
Carlos Correa hit a solo home run for the Astros off Washington starter Joe Ross.
Astros: Keuchel threw 43 pitches, 30 for strikes.
Nationals: Ross allowed one run over four innings and said he felt stronger. Nationals manager Dusty Baker was impressed, too.
''Joe was outstanding, other than that home run - and he didn't give it up to a slouch,'' Baker said. ''Joe Ross was electric today. He threw easy gas, easy strikes. I like some Joe Ross.''
Astros: RHP Luke Gregerson (left oblique) will pitch in a minor league game on Wednesday.
Nationals: A day after getting hit by a pitch in the left shoulder while swinging his bat, Washington center fielder Ben Revere was back in the lineup.
Astros: The Astros will play the Nationals again, only this time in Kissimmee. Collin McHugh gets the start for Houston.
Nationals: Gio Gonzalez will make his third spring start for Washington.
BOTH TEAMS MAKE CUTS
Astros: Optioned RHPs Juan Minaya, Joe Musgrove, David Paulino and Danny Reynolds to minor league camp Monday. The Astros also reassigned RHPs Brady Rodgers and Brendan McCurry to minor league camp.
Nationals: Optioned OF Brian Goodwin and LHP Sammy Solis to Triple-A Syracuse. Optioned LHP Nick Lee, C Spencer Kieboom and INF Chris Bostick to Double-A Harrisburg. Reassigned INF Matt Skole and OF Logan Schafer to minor league camp,
The lineup posted in the Astros dugout prior to Monday's game had Luis Valbuena playing left field instead of third base. Since it also had Tony Kemp playing left, that gave Houston two left fielders Now, that's quite a shift.
Hinch told reporters he leaves it to bench coach Trey Hillman to fill out the lineup card posted in the dugout.
''It's spring training for everybody, including Trey,'' Hinch joked.
MANAGING THE STARS
Baker has played with or managed a number of big-name stars in his day, which makes him uniquely qualified for a Washington team that includes NL MVP Bryce Harper.
''I know what it entails,'' Baker said of being a star player. ''I recognize their insecurities. Their confidence. You recognize different things about them.
''. Some of them are lonely. Some of them need love. I think they all need love. I mean, they're people. I've got quite a few stars on this team. I look forward to managing them on a daily basis.''