- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) - Houston Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel pitched so efficiently Monday that after he left the game, he went to the bullpen to get more work and threw a simulated inning.

He didn’t allow any runs then, either.

Making his first start of spring training, Keuchel needed only 17 pitches in two scoreless innings, and the Astros beat the Miami Marlins 4-0.

All but three of Keuchel’s pitches were strikes. He allowed one baserunner, on a single, before his final pitch induced a double play.

“Out of the gate my fastball command was pretty good,” Keuchel said. “Early in the spring you don’t want to be too fine, because guys don’t want to be out here too long. You want to attack the zone and get as many strikes as possible.”

Chia-Jen Lo, Houston’s eighth pitcher, threw a scoreless ninth to complete a four-hitter. Houston improved to 3-1 after losing a franchise record 111 games last season.

“It’s better than being 1-3,” manager Bo Porter said. “Whenever you get into competition, whether you’re playing marbles or a spring-training baseball game, the object is to win.”

Miami starter Jacob Turner went two innings and gave up one run, on Marc Krauss’ homer. Krauss went 2 for 4 and is 5 for 9 in spring training.

Houston’s J.D. Martinez doubled home a run in the seventh. George Springer walked four times and scored twice.

STARTING TIME

Houston: Keuchel’s off to a good start in his bid to win a starting job.

“I just think about me doing my job, and whatever happens happens,” he said. “If it’s to fall in my lap, I’ll take it.”

Keuchel began 2013 in Triple-A but finished the season in the rotation and went 6-10 with a 5.15 ERA in 31 games. He acknowledges there’s room for improvement.

“Last year, two out of three times I did a good job of getting out of jams,” he said. “That one inning was the one that got me. I’m going to do a better job of buckling down and battling that last little jam you get into. Stay away from those crooked numbers.”

Miami: Turner is one of at least four pitchers contending for the final two spots in the Marlins’ rotation. He went only 3-8 in 20 starts last season despite a 3.74 ERA.

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