Anyone tracking Dallas Keuchel’s progress from a season low point at the end of August can mark Wednesday’s start down as another step out of a deep rut.
“Overall, tonight was one of the better-feeling starts I’ve had,” Keuchel said after the White Sox’ 3-2 loss to the Angels. “I’d like to keep with that. But, I mean, I felt good last time out too. So…. Just the way things go.”
Keuchel’s postgame press conference was brief and subdued after he gave up two runs in six innings, his best results in at least a month.
Don’t put Keuchel down as a postseason lock after Wednesday, his first quality start since Aung. 5 against the Royals. Time is quickly running out for the southpaw to prove that he can turn his season around for the playoffs. But Wednesday marked the first time since Aug. 16 against Oakland that Keuchel held the opposing team to under five runs.
“Mostly ups,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said when asked to evaluate Keuchel’s start Wednesday. “I asked Yas (catcher Yasmani Grandal)— the walks, he was missing by just a tad. Most of those. I thought he had good command, and it was mostly up.”
Keuchel worked out of plenty of jams to get there on Wednesday. In the fifth inning for example, Keuchel walked the bases loaded but induced a double play ball to escape the inning unscathed.
His five walks Wednesday were his most since May 2016. He never allowed more than three runs in a game last season, on his way to a career best 1.99 ERA.
“Outside of a couple of at-bats, I feel like I really made the pitches I wanted to,” Keuchel said. “I had five walks, but any one of those outside of one were pretty close.”
As Keuchel has struggled this year, the White Sox have often softened criticism by pointing to instances of bad luck. Those came Wednesday, too, when a review reversed what initially was called inning-ending ground out.
White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada hesitated before firing to first, and the replay showed that Angels outfielder Phil Gosselin beat the throw. The Angels’ first run scored.
Keuchel also benefitted from good luck in the form of staunch defensive plays. Moncada slammed the door closed on back-to-back innings. First, he charged a soft ground ball and made an off-balance, on-target throw to end the fourth.
The next frame, he turned an inning-ending double play, taking a grounder back to third base and then throwing to first. First baseman José Abreu made a deft pick.
So, Keuchel made progress. But how can he sustain it as the regular season comes to a close?
With an exasperated chuckle, Keuchel brought back a familiar trope.
“Good luck,” he said. “I mean, I’ve really got nothing else for you guys.”