Chicago White Sox: One pitch unlocked Keuchel’s artistic performance

(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /

Dallas Keuchel was dealing on Thursday night for the Chicago White Sox. He kept an imposing Toronto Blue Jays lineup guessing all night, cutting them down with a barrage of filthy cutters. In six innings of work, Keuchel allowed six hits, two walks, a pair of runs, and recorded a season-high eight strikeouts. He arguably had his best stuff of the season to this point.

The Chicago White Sox love when Dallas Keuchel is on his best game.

Keuchel was able to keep Toronto hitters off balance by getting ahead in the count and mixing and matching an assortment of offspeed pitches. He was able to produce 21 swings and misses, 10 on his cutter and nine on his changeup. Of his eight strikeouts, five were via the cutter, two from his changeup, and one victim of a sinker.

Dallas was throwing first-pitch strikes all night. He got a first-pitch strike on 16 of the 26 batters he faced. He often established the outside portion of the strike zone, which allowed him to unleash the cutter effectively.

His sixth strikeout of the game against Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was a textbook example of this. Keuchel established the outside with a low changeup, then wore down Gurriel Jr. with cutters in on his hands. His sequence was changeup low and away, inside the cutter, changeup low and away, and an inside cutter for strike three.

Keuchel’s changeup was also used to deceive hitters and get ahead in the count. In the third inning, he got Riley Adams to swing and miss at two low changeups. After missing low and away with a changeup, he threw a sinker on the lower half of the zone that Adams struggled to foul off. He went back to a low changeup and  Adams did not bite at before he pumped a cutter inside to get him to swing and miss for strike three.

Another example of his brilliance was his strikeout of Bo Bichette in the fifth inning. Keuchel found himself in a jam with runners at the corners. It was a situation that required some big pitches. He started the at-bat with three consecutive changeups. One at the bottom of the strike zone that was fouled of, one in the dirt and one outside. He then went in on the hands with a cutter, producing a swinging strike to even the count at 2-2. Keuchel went back outside with a 79 mph changeup and pulled the string on Bichette as he nearly lost his balance swinging at the pitch.

"“Dallas Keuchel, just artistic, what he did,” Tony La Russa said after the game.“That is a really good lineup and he made some hellacious pitches to keep them off the board and shut them down. It was artistic, as far as I’m concerned-he was painting the thing. And then the infield hits early, the one run, and Moncada’s mistake cost him pitches. But fortunately, it did not cost him and us the game.”"

Keuchel got a quality start despite some bad luck. In the fifth inning, the Blue Jays got two rinky-dink hits on infield singles. The first was on a ball that Jose Abreu should have flipped to first but tried to run it to the bag instead. The second was on a short chopper that Keuchel made an excellent play on but the throw was just late. Joe Panik would come around to score later in the inning as a result.

The next inning, Keuchel threw what looked like an inning-ending double play by getting Randal Grichuck to ground out to third. However, Yoan Moncada thought there were two outs and threw the ball to first base, much to the dismay of Keuchel. It took 12 more pitches for Keuchel to escape the inning and cost him another run.

Despite the rotten luck, Keuchel exited the game in line for the win and the bullpen slammed the door to get it for him his fifth win of the season.

Dallas Keuchel entered his start against the Detroit Tigers on June 4th with a 4.53 ERA. He was beginning to look like the weak link of the pitching staff. Two quality starts later and all of a sudden he looks like the ace the White Sox paid 55.5 million dollars for.

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He is 4-0 with a 3.76 ERA, 25 strikeouts, and .264 opponents average over his last seven starts. As Dallas Keuchel begins to turn the corner, the White Sox pitching staff looks more menacing than ever. Each pitcher is going out to try and one-up the last. After watching Lance Lynn throw seven strong innings the previous night, Dallas Keuchel went out and did just that.