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Keuchel is last chance for Astros to stop A's sweep

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Houston Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel rarely if ever lets the opposition see him sweat. But after a rough start in an 8-1 loss to Texas on Aug. 30, Keuchel knew he had lost his "cool a little bit" and paid the price.

"That's what led to a lot of runs," Keuchel said, looking back after his next start on Monday at Seattle. "And I told myself not to do that ever again and let the guys rely on me to get it going."

Keuchel bounced back to pitch a gem against the Mariners. He allowed two runs and seven hits in 7 2/3 innings with five strikeouts and two walks in a 6-2 win. Kechel improved to 12-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.88.

Keuchel will make his 20th start of the season Sunday afternoon in the series finale against the Oakland Athletics, and he'll try to prevent a four-game sweep. Keuchel is 3-0 with an 0.83 ERA in three starts against the A's this season.

A's right-hander Kendall Graveman said he knows he'll have to be sharp against Keuchel, but he's looking forward to facing the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner.

"The best thing I can do is go out and try to get us good momentum to start off the game and then see where the game goes from there," Graveman said Saturday before the A's swept a doubleheader from Houston with 11-1 and 11-4 victories. "He's a good competitor. You always see how he competes, how he never gives in to hitters. You can always, looking from the other side, watching, you can take stuff away from it, because he has won a Cy Young.

"Heck, he's got good numbers this year. You always try to pick up from the best in the game. I feel like I've been able to. He uses all of his pitches in any count and that's something I can learn from too."

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said he saw no outward signs of Keuchel losing his cool against the Rangers.

"He's a pretty high-strung competitor," Hinch said. "I think it's more of an internal awareness of keeping his focus. He's never out of control, he's never overly emotional on the mound, but inside I think he expects perfection, so whether he makes a mistake, if the umpire makes a mistake, if the hitter gets a good pitch, internally he can get a little bit frustrated.

"You can never confuse that for being out of control or overly emotional on the competitive side. He was probably referring more to how he approached every inning and how he reacted to every inning. He's pretty intense."

Graveman (4-4, 4.70 ERA) is coming off a no-decision in an 8-7, 10-inning loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday. He gave up four runs and five hits in five innings with three strikeouts and three walks.

"The last start there weren't any really hard hit balls," Graveman said. "I can't think of a ball that was hit hard. The walks a little bit got me in trouble, missing location. So I think kind of for the most part that's what got me in trouble. Pitched around a couple guys and then I had a bloop single and a ground ball that found a hole. It all happened in one inning."

Graveman actually gave up three runs in the third and one in the fifth against the Angels.

Graveman is 3-3 with a 3.99 ERA in eight career starts against the Astros. This season, he's 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA in two starts.

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