NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Houston Astros blasted into the next round of the Major League Baseball postseason with a 3-0 shutout of the New York Yankees in their Wild Card playoff game on Tuesday.
Solo home runs by Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez backed the superlative pitching of Houston starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel, who blanked the Yanks on three hits over six innings with seven strikeouts.
Keuchel, 20-8 this season and pitching on three days’ rest for the first time, silenced the New York crowd of 50,000 by running his scoreless streak against the pinstripes to 22 innings in 2015.
“I didn’t think we would play that well,” Keuchel said in a televised post-game interview.
“I thought we’d play a bit better than average but I didn’t think we’d come to Yankee Stadium and play that well.”
Relievers Tony Sipp, Will Harris and Luke Gregerson pitched one scoreless inning each to combine with Keuchel on the three-hit shutout.
Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka took the loss, giving up first-pitch home runs by Rasmus in the second inning and by Gomez in the fourth, in his five innings of work.
Houston tacked on the last run in the seventh on an RBI-single by Jose Altuve off reliever Dellin Betances in the seventh that drove in Jonathan Villar after he had stolen second base.
The victory lifted the Astros, appearing in the playoffs for the first time since 2005, into a best-of-five American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, starting Thursday.
“You saw a lot of what’s right about Astros baseball,” said Houston manager A.J. Hinch. “We homered, we stole a few bases that came up key.
“We got gutsy pitching out of Keuchel and our bullpen, and we had some big plays on defense. I think that’s what we do when we’re at our best.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was disappointed but proud of his team, which was not regarded as a contender before the season.
“It’s really disappointing. It’s hard,” Girardi said. “Seasons end abruptly and it’s very difficult. This is a club that fought all year long, and there’s a lot of character in that room, and this hurts. We just didn’t get it done.
“We just haven’t been able to solve Keuchel this year.”
On Wednesday, the National League Wild Card game will be contested in Pittsburgh, with the Pirates taking on the Chicago Cubs in a showdown between NL Central clubs.
The other AL Division Series will see the Toronto Blue Jays, back in the postseason for the first time in 22 years, at home to the Texas Rangers.
Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Julian Linden