With the Astros unable to clinch a spot in the AL’s Wild Card game until the final day of the season, they didn’t have the luxury of setting up their rotation for the playoffs. Staff ace Dallas Keuchel, who is a leading candidate to win the AL Cy Young, had to pitch on Friday, but still Astros manager AJ Hinch threw him out there to face the Yankees on just three days rest.

It didn’t matter in the least. Keuchel pitched six innings, giving up just three hits and striking out seven. He only found himself in trouble once, in the sixth inning, when the Yankees put two on with two out. Keuchel ended the threat by getting Alex Rodriguez to fly out, and three Astros relievers combined to finish off the three-hit shutout, giving up just a single walk.

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The Astros offense wasn’t exactly bangin’, but with Keuchel on the mound it was enough. Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez hit solo home runs off of Masahiro Tanaka, and the Astros manufactured another run off of the Yankees bullpen. As Yankees manager Joe Girardi said during his postgame press conference, on many other nights Tanaka’s five-inning, two-run performance would’ve been enough to get it done, especially considering the Yankees scored the second most run in the majors this season.

But not against Keuchel. In his two previous starts against the Yankees this season, he gave up zero runs in 16 innings, striking out 21 while giving up just nine hits. By that insane standard tonight’s performance was his worst against the Yankees, but it was more than enough, and the Astros live to fight another day.

Game 1 of their ALDS series against the Royals begins Thursday in Kansas City.

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