- Associated Press - Sunday, October 11, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - The Kansas City Royals were the darlings of last year’s postseason, making an unlikely run to the World Series.

This year, another young, exciting team is on the brink of sending them home.

Dallas Keuchel remained perfect at home with seven gutsy innings and Chris Carter homered Sunday, leading the Houston Astros to a 4-2 win over the Royals to take a 2-1 edge in the American League Division Series.

The Astros could wrap up the best-of-five matchup with a win over the defending AL champions in Game 4 on Monday.

“You got to go out and win tomorrow,” manager Ned Yost said. “So, you just don’t have much leeway now, but our guys, I think, are up to the task and tomorrow will be an exciting day.”

Keuchel, who shut down the Yankees in the AL wild-card game, worked out of jam after jam, allowing five hits and one run with seven strikeouts after going 15-0 at home this season, a modern major league record.

Yost knows just how good Keuchel is after tapping the lefty to start for the AL in this year’s All-Star game.

“He threw a great game,” Yost said. “I think he should be the Cy Young winner this year. He’s been great. Had a phenomenal year.”

Luke Gregerson gave up a leadoff homer in the ninth to Alex Gordon before finishing off the Astros first playoff game in Houston in 10 years with a four-out save.

Royals cleanup hitter Eric Hosmer, who is batting .083 in the playoffs, said their mindset is simple Win on Monday and force a Game 5 in Kansas City.

“Every game is a must-win,” Hosmer said. “Obviously, it didn’t work out the way we wanted it today. We have to come back and do everything we can to win and take it back to Kansas City.”

Jason Castro drove in two runs with a single in the fifth that made it 2-1. Carlos Gomez, who has a rib muscle strain, started for the first time in the series and had an RBI single in the sixth.

Carter’s soaring solo homer, which landed on the train tracks atop the wall in left-center, and came on Danny Duffy’s first pitch of the seventh pushed the lead to 4-1.

Carter, batting .199 in the regular season but .455 in the postseason, was a triple shy of the cycle for the Astros, who were hosting a playoff game for the first time since the 2005 World Series.

Lorenzo Cain hit a solo homer in the fourth for the Royals, who were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base.

“We have to stay confident,” Cain said. “See what happens tomorrow, come ready to go and give it our all.”

Kansas City starter Edinson Volquez fell to 0-3 in his postseason career by allowing five hits and three runs in 5 2-3 innings.

The Astros are one win away from reaching the AL championship series just two years after losing a franchise-worst 111 games.

Keuchel wasn’t as sharp as he was in New York, but he was able to tiptoe out of trouble again and again and got deep in the game despite a pitch count that got high early. He finished with a season-high 124 pitches.

“You get to this type of scenario and you don’t capitalize, you get what happens today,” Yost said.

The Astros scored three runs in the first two innings of both of the first two games, but couldn’t get anything going early on Sunday.

Colby Rasmus, who homered in Houston’s first three playoff games, got a kooky single in the eighth when his pop fly caromed off the ceiling and back into play.

The Astros’ first hit didn’t come until a single by Carter to start the third inning, but he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Luis Valbuena drew a walk with one out in the fifth and Carter followed with the team’s second hit, a liner to the left-field corner for a double. Castro got hit first hit of the postseason on two-strike groundball to center field to score them both to make it 2-1.

George Springer doubled to start Houston’s sixth when Cain sprinted and dived to grab his flyball, but it bounced in and out of his glove and onto the ground. Cain slid across the warning track on his stomach and punched the wall in frustration when he got back to his feet.

Gomez’s two-out single to center field scored Springer to extend the lead to 3-1.

Cain’s first career homer in the postseason came when he launched the 10th pitch of the at-bat, a hanging 80 mph slider, into the seats in left field to start the fourth inning and make it 1-0.

PRESIDENTIAL FIRST PITCH

Former President George H.W. Bush, in a wheelchair and wearing a neck brace, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game. The 91-year-old Bush, recovering after breaking a vertebra in his neck in a summer spill, smiled broadly when the crowd cheered after he was brought onto the field. With wife Barbara by his side, he bounced a short throw from about five feet in front of the plate to Houston’s Jed Lowrie, who was set up to catch.

UP NEXT

Houston rookie Lance McCullers (6-7, 3.22) opposes Yordano Ventura (13-8, 4.08) in Game 4. It will be the postseason debut for McCullers, who turned 22 on Oct. 2. But he seems undaunted by the challenge. “I don’t view myself as a young kid when I go out there,” he said. Ventura will make his second start of the series after his first one was limited to two innings because of a 49-minute rain delay in Game 1. He was strong late in the regular season, going 7-1 with a 2.38 ERA in his last 11 starts.


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