Keuchel looks to get back on track as Astros face M's

SEATTLE -- While Houston fans will have to wait until Tuesday for the debut of new Astros starter Justin Verlander, they should be excited about the prospect of seeing ace Dallas Keuchel try to get back on track against the Seattle Mariners.

On Monday, Keuchel is scheduled to face Seattle for the first time since Opening Day, when he threw seven innings of two-hit baseball against the Mariners in a 3-0 win. Keuchel has had plenty of highs and lows since that day, and he is coming off one of his worst outings of the season.

The Astros hope the addition of Verlander might bring out the best in Keuchel. The 29-year-old southpaw was enthused about the prospect of adding Verlander to the mix.

"Excitement is an understatement," Keuchel said Sunday. "Anytime you get a perennial All-Star and pitcher of this caliber and what he's done it just makes the team that much better."

Verlander was officially introduced to the media and said he was hoping to give the traumatized Houston fans something to keep their minds off the devastation of Hurricane Harvey -- if only for a while.

"Hopefully we can bring a championship to a city that really could use something like that right now," Verlander said during his introductory press conference Sunday morning, "and hopefully I can be a part of that and we can give this city something to rally around."

Keuchel (11-3, 2.91 ERA) is on tap to open the series against Seattle's Erasmo Ramirez (5-5, 4.43 ERA). The Houston lefty has a career 5-5 record and 3.08 ERA against the Mariners.

Ramirez doesn't have much recent history against Houston, as his only two appearances against the Astros over the past two seasons came out of the Tampa Bay bullpen. Over his career, he has gone 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA against Houston.

Since being re-acquired by the Mariners (69-68) in a late-July deal, Ramirez is 1-2 with a 3.62 ERA. Each of his past four outings were quality starts.

He will be pitching for a Seattle team that is desperately trying to stay in the postseason hunt. The Mariners, who aren't going to catch Houston in the American League West race, completed a three-game sweep of the A's on Sunday to pull within 2 1/2 games of the Minnesota Twins, who sit in the second AL wild-card position.

"That was a big series, a big win," Seattle outfielder Mitch Haniger said after homering, collecting four hits and driving in two runs in the Mariners' 10-2 victory over Oakland on Sunday. "We're just focusing on tomorrow. We have to take them one game at a time."

After the win, Seattle starter Andrew Albers said: "The way we're playing right now, it's a lot of fun."

The Astros (83-53) have won four in a row since Keuchel gave up six runs in an 8-1 loss to Texas last Wednesday in St. Petersburg, Fla. Houston still has a remote shot at the club record of 102 wins in a season. With a sweep at Seattle, the Astros would match their AL-best total of 86 victories.
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