Astros again shut down Phillies

Associated Press Modified: September 15, 2012 at 11:19 pm •  Published: September 15, 2012

HOUSTON (AP) — Sitting on 99 losses, the Houston Astros had reason to blare the celebration music in the postgame clubhouse Saturday night.

Lifted by an early lead and a strong start by Dallas Keuchel, Houston blanked the Philadelphia Phillies 5-0 to temporarily avoid a second consecutive 100-loss season.

Justin Maxwell hit a two-run home run, and Keuchel pitched 5 1-3 scoreless innings — allowing five hits and four walks— for his first win in nearly three months, as the Astros beat Philadelphia for the second time in three games.

The Phillies were slowed in their surge for an NL playoff spot for the second time in three games by the worst team in the big leagues. Philadelphia entered the day three games behind St. Louis for the final wild-card spot. The Cardinals played the Dodgers later Saturday.

Keuchel (2-7) admitted to being aware of the looming milestone loss but said it didn't affect his performance.

"Actually, I don't normally pay attention to the wins and losses, but I looked before the game and saw that we had 99 losses," Keuchel said. "But it's nothing I worry about. I just try to do my job and help the team win."

It was Keuchel's first win in 11 starts, since his previous victory on June 23 against Cleveland.

"I'm real happy for Keuchel," Astros manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "He battled out of a couple of tough jams, and I wanted to make sure the kid got a win when he came out. I'm real proud of him."

Keuchel struggled with location early, walking two in the first inning as the Phillies loaded the bases. But Keuchel got Ty Wigginton to fly out to end the threat, and Philadelphia stranded eight baserunners through the first four innings.

"The first inning for him has been a problem so far," DeFrancesco said. "If we can get him confident from when he comes out of the bullpen to when he crosses the line, he can do well."

Keuchel escaped another bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning to frustrate the Phillies.

"He made pitches when he needed to," Phillies catcher Erik Kratz said.

In addition to raising Keuchel's confidence, DeFrancesco said he believed victories against teams competing for a spot in the playoffs can bring a much needed morale boost.

"Today was the day where they all believed in themselves," DeFrancesco said. "Tomorrow is another day. If we can be the spoiler and give our guys some success and confidence, that's what we're looking for."

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