Dallas Keuchel is ready to contribute in any fashion this postseason for the Chicago White Sox.
He pitched in a rare relief role in Saturday’s 5-4 victory against the Detroit Tigers, allowing three runs in two-thirds of an inning out of the bullpen.
Could Keuchel possibly be a reliever this postseason?
“Obviously I’d like for that seventh inning to go a little bit different,” he said. “Two outs and a chance to close it out and it didn’t happen. I signed over here for a reason and that’s to help this team reach the ultimate goal and that’s the World Series and to bring a title home to Chicago. So any way I can help. That’s been no different throughout my career.
“When October comes, the lights are the brightest and I’m usually there. It’s no different right now.”
Keuchel wasn’t as consistent as he’s usually been this season. After going 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA and finishing fifth in the American League Cy Young voting in 2020, he went 9-9 with a 5.28 ERA in 32 (30 starts) in 2021.
Saturday technically marked his second relief appearance this season. His first came on June 27, when he began the resumption of a suspended game against the Seattle Mariners from the day before. That was his first relief outing in the regular season since Aug. 6, 2013, for the Houston Astros against the Boston Red Sox.
“Honestly, it was no different,” Keuchel said of warming up in the sixth in preparation for the appearance. “I’m very familiar with the Tigers. It’s basically just about harnessing that extra adrenaline rush that you don’t really get in the process of starting the game.
“Outside of one or two pitches there in the seventh with two outs and a chance to close the inning, I felt really good, so I’m hoping to get some more chances here in the near future and I’m looking forward to that adrenaline rush.”
Keuchel entered in the seventh and allowed a one-out infield single to Isaac Paredes when José Abreu couldn’t scoop Tim Anderson’s throw to first. Keuchel struck out Harold Castro, with Paredes advancing on a wild pitch. An RBI single, RBI double, walk and RBI single followed.
Keuchel was replaced by Matt Foster.
“Two-strike, two-out hits, that’s where he got hurt,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “A couple of them were solid, but another one a little blooper, the last one. He looked healthy to me.
“I thought the ball was coming out of his hand good, he had stuff. He got the first outs, and then with two outs, he threw a strike and then the guys got on him. You don’t ignore the fact that he had the first few hitters, that he was making pitches and was not (giving up) hard contact. You consider it all.”
Keuchel made nine relief appearances in the 2013 regular season and one relief outing in the 2015 postseason.
Before the game, La Russa said of utilizing Keuchel as a reliever in the postseason: “I actually have no doubt that he could handle it. Just look at his experience. Who (has) more experience in what we’re going to go through than Dallas? He’s taken the role as a starter with all the heat that you could possibly want. I think how quickly he warms up, there won’t be a situation that you would bring him in to that he’ll be intimidated.”
The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner with the Astros signed a three-year, $55.5 million deal with the Sox leading up to the 2020 season. The contract includes a team option for 2023. He started Game 2 of the wild-card series last season against the Oakland Athletics, allowing five runs (three earned) in 3⅓ innings in a 5-3 loss.
He’s ready to offer his experience on and off the field as the Sox face his former team in the AL Division Series.
“We got a little taste last year, a lot of these guys,” Keuchel said. “But it was without fans. Until the moment comes, I don’t think, I don’t really know if it’s going to be different for some of these guys. We’ve got a lot of guys who kind of have ice in their veins and will withstand some of that crowd noise in Houston. I’ve talked to a few guys about controlling emotions and not letting the jitters or the adrenaline get to them.
“Adrenaline is a great thing when you can harness it and use it to your advantage. It’s the complete opposite when you cannot really use it to your advantage. I’m here for a lot of the guys on the pitching staff and even the offensive side of the ball or the defensive side of the ball. Just looking to have some fun.”