Fantasy Football 2014:

Keuchel dominates again, Astros stop Mariners

The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel continued to dominate the competition Sunday afternoon, when he threw his second complete game in three starts and won his fourth game in a row while beating the Seattle Mariners 4-1 at Safeco Field.

Not that Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon seemed to notice.

"I saw average stuff," McClendon said when asked about Keuchel's complete-game performance, which saw the Mariners held to four hits and an unearned run. "We didn't swing the bats very good. At some point you've got to stop giving credit to average pitchers; that becomes a broken record. At some point, we've got to swing the bat."

Keuchel (6-2) has been anything but average lately, having gone 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA over his past four starts. But the left-hander wasn't taking any of the credit for Sunday's win.

"It wasn't me today," he said after throwing 106 pitches with five strikeouts and no walks. "It was the offense and the defense."

Offensively, the Astros (19-32) got all they needed via the long ball. Rookie outfielder George Springer continued his onslaught with his fourth home run in a span of three games to give Houston a 2-1 lead in the sixth while teammate Marc Krauss added a two-run shot of his own one inning later.

Both home runs came off Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma, who suffered through his worst outing of the season. Iwakuma (3-1) allowed four earned runs off a season-high nine hits.

"He elevated a couple breaking balls today," McClendon said. "He wasn't as sharp as he usually is with the breaking ball, and they were able to capitalize."

Over his first four starts of the season -- a finger injury delayed his season debut -- Iwakuma hadn't allowed more than six hits in a game and had a 1.76 ERA. The two home runs he allowed Sunday matched Iwakuma's season total.

"He probably wasn't as on as he normally is," Krauss said. "He left a few up in the zone, and we were able to take advantage of it a little bit."

Keuchel had no such problems. He overcame a second-inning error to win his fourth consecutive start and finish off the third complete game of his career.

Over his past four starts, Keuchel has gone 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA. He has 27 strikeouts and just one walk in that span.

"He's definitely in a groove right now," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "It's a joy to watch. It's good to see him pitch like that game after game after game."

Springer gave the Astros (19-32) their first lead with a two-run homer in the sixth inning, putting Houston ahead 2-1. The one-out homer was Springer's third two-run home run in two days. He drove in seven of Houston's 13 runs over the weekend.

"Just see it and hit it -- that's what I'm trying to do," Springer said. "I really wasn't trying to do too much; I wasn't trying to hit a home run."

Springer was 0-for-11 with four strikeouts in his only other visit to Seattle earlier this season, but he has since changed his approach and hit three home runs in nine at-bats this time around.

"I'm not trying to hit the eight-run home run anymore," Springer said. "I'm just trying to slow down and help the team win."

The Astros entered the weekend having scored three total runs over three games before breaking out for 13 runs off 22 hits Saturday and Sunday.

The Mariners (24-25) got on the board first, thanks to a Keuchel throwing error in the bottom of the second inning. Keuchel struck out the first two batters he faced in the second before Seattle put together three consecutive two-out singles. The final one came on a slow dribbler off the bat of Mariners outfielder Cole Gillespie, who reached first as Keuchel's throw toward Krauss at first base sailed away to score Mike Zunino for a 1-0 Seattle lead.

That unearned run was the only one scored on Keuchel, whose perfect ninth inning included a 1-3 putout on a ground ball that bounced off his foot and rolled to defensive replacement Jesus Guzman for an easy putout at first.

"Just one of those days," Keuchel said with a shrug.

The Astros' Porter was also shrugging after Sunday's game when informed that McClendon had called Keuchel an "average" pitcher.

"Look at the stretch he's on right now," Porter said. "He's arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball right now."

NOTES: Mariners 2B Robinson Cano went 0-for-4, ending his 31-game streak of reaching base in the process. ... Seattle CF James Jones went hitless for the first time in 15 games. ... After Sunday's game, the Astros optioned OF L.J. Hoes to Triple-A and recalled OF Robbie Grossman. Manager Bo Porter said Grossman would be given a shot as Houston's every-day left fielder, with Alex Presley moving into the role of fourth outfielder. ... Seattle RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, who hadn't given up more than six hits in a game all season, allowed five singles to the first 12 batters he faced Sunday. Thanks to two double plays and a caught stealing, none of the baserunners scored. ... RF George Springer's two-run homer in the sixth drove in the first runs scored on Iwakuma at home this season. Before that hit, Iwakuma had pitched 29 1/3 scoreless innings at Safeco Field. ... The Mariners are scheduled to face their fourth consecutive left-handed starter on Monday, when the Angels' Tyler Skaggs is expected to take the mound. Houston used southpaws in each of the final games of the weekend series, including Sunday starter LHP Dallas Keuchel. ... Seattle turned three double plays in the loss.

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