When Astros fans learned late last week that their ace would miss one of his starts due to a pinched nerve in his neck, most were less than pleased to hear the news. One week later, it seems as if the scenario could not have played out better for the club.
Although it is never good to see someone go down with an injury, the Astros may benefit from what happened this week later down the road. A pinched nerve can definitely be concerning, but the good news is that Keuchel’s injury had nothing to do with his arm.
Now, the Astros have their ace coming back on the mound today with a left arm that might be just a bit more fresh against a tough American League opponent in the Baltimore Orioles. The Astros coaching staff and front office learned their lesson from 2015 and 2016 about what can happen to Keuchel’s body when he pitches 200+ innings over the course of a season, and will certainly act with increased precaution over the course of the next few months.
With other pitchers such as Mike Fiers and Joe Musgrove struggling and Collin McHugh dealing with injury issues of his own, it will be crucial for Keuchel to be in great shape by the time September and October roll around. Some may not see one start as a big deal for saving an arm, but in the total innings tally any effort that a team can make to prevent innings from piling up is huge.
Of course, the Astros are also keeping an eye on Lance McCullers’ innings, even as the young right-hander is in the midst of posting his most successful run of starts in his short major league career. Keuchel and McCullers both went down with injuries in late 2016, devastating any chances the Astros would have at clinching a postseason berth.
Astros fans certainly want to enjoy every moment of Keuchel and McCullers’ outings without thinking about the innings watch, but the front office must keep tabs on the subject throughout the season in order for the team to put together its most competitive roster come September.
The other part of the win-win scenario regarding Keuchel and the Astros this week was that the Astros actually won the game that their ace had to skip due to injury. Due to a spectacular effort from Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski, Will Harris, and Ken Giles, the Astros beat the Detroit Tigers this past Monday night in Keuchel’s absence. And as an added bonus, the Astros may have found their fifth starter, as Peacock punched out eight batters and allowed only one hit in his spot-start.
This was a great sign for the Astros, as they showed that they boast a competitive pitching staff that can rally when the team’s best pitcher has to take some time off. This is the exact same “next man up” mentality that usually carries teams to World Series championships each and every year.
For example, the Chicago Cubs faced a roadblock early last season when Kyle Schwarber went down. They mixed and matched their roster and dominated the National League Central division from start to finish. While Keuchel is certainly a more important cog in the Astros machine, Schwarber was an important piece to the Cubs lineup and yet the team succeeded without him.
Overall, Astros fans have to be pleased with the way the club handled Keuchel’s injury situation. Not only did they win the ballgame on Monday night, they saved some innings for their ace without having to overcome any significant medical issues. Hopefully I do not have to write an article like this again however, as just writing the word injury next to Dallas Keuchel’s name can be a bit too much to bear.