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OAK@HOU: Keuchel stifles A's, allows one earned run

HOUSTON -- Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel would like to finish strong and hit 200 innings for the season. Rangers pitcher Nick Martinez would like to get off the roller coaster he has been on and put together a string of consistently good starts to finish his season.

Two pitchers with distinct missions will face off on the final day of August when Martinez pitches for the Rangers against Keuchel for the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Keuchel developed into the ace of the Astros staff this year, with a 10-9 record and 3.05 ERA. He also leads the team with 171 1/3 innings pitched.

There has been talk that Astros management may cut back his innings the rest of the season.

"I'd like to be out there as much as I can," Keuchel said. "I'd like to reach 200 innings. It's not a goal. But in order to do that, I'm going to have to go out there and do a pretty good job the last five starts."

Keuchel said manager Bo Porter has not talked to him one on one about cutting back on his innings.

"I expressed that I wanted to pitch as much as possible the last month of the season," Keuchel said. "The last couple of years I haven't finished up well. I'm feeling stronger at this point, so I should be good to go.

"Experience [has helped]. I know how you feel in September. We took off some of the workouts this season. But I'm a strict regimen guy and do everything necessary between starts to help me prepare."

Porter thinks that Keuchel is capable of getting to 200 innings.

"You look at where he's at, if he continues to pitch the way he's been pitching, I don't think it would be anything exorbitant," Porter said. "You look at September callups and everything, I think we'll be able to come up with a plan [for Keuchel] that will be beneficial for everybody."

Martinez snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 6-2 victory over the Astros on Aug. 10, allowing two runs in five innings. But he is 1-2 with a 5.82 ERA in his last three starts.

"It hasn't been the smoothest ride," Martinez said. "It's all part of the process and the experience. I just try to go out there and compete and roll with the good ones."

Martinez lost to the Mariners, 5-0, in his last start. He allowed five runs in five innings on six hits and four walks.

"I have been nibbling a lot, that's when I get into trouble," Martinez said. "There have been a few games where I have been nibbling in the strike zone, falling behind and getting beat."

Astros: Altuve chases batting title
Second baseman Jose Altuve is trying to do something in the Astros' second year in the American League that no Houston player could do in 52 years in the National League: win a batting title.

The Astros were one of three National League teams without a batting champion. The others are the D-backs, who started play in 1998, and the Brewers, who switched to the National League in 1997. But the Brewers never produced an AL batting title either.

The Phillies have gone the longest without a batting champion in the National League. Their last batting champion was Richie Ashburn in 1958. The Mets, who began playing in 1962 along with the Astros, didn't get their first batting champion until Jose Reyes in 2011.

The Athletics have gone the longest overall and it goes back three cities. The Athletics have not produced a batting champion in either Oakland or Kansas City. Their last batting champion was Ferris Fain, who led the American League in 1951-52 when they were still in Philadelphia.

Rangers: Chirinos trying to finish strong
Robinson Chirinos will be behind the plate on Sunday for the Rangers after rookie Tomas Telis started at catcher the previous two games. The Rangers want to see Telis over the final month of the season but they also want Chirinos to finish strong.

Chirinos is in his first full season as a Major League catcher and is hitting .195 over his last 25 games. He has never had this kind of workload since switching from infield to catcher four years ago.

"Between him and Telis, his workload won't be overloaded," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He is getting into uncharted territory and this is where he has to figure out about mental toughness. He has to grind through it and he has shown that he can."

Chirinos has thrown out 35.5 percent of attempted basestealers. That's the best ratio in the American League and second only to the Cardinals Yadier Molina, who has thrown out 47.1 percent.

Worth noting
• The Rangers have won six straight day games. They are 20-17 in day games with seven to play. The Rangers have had a losing record in day games in 13 of their past 16 seasons. The Astros are 17-24 in day games.

• In the head-to-head chase for the batting title, Altuve is 2-for-4 previously off Martinez. Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is 7-for-25 off Keuchel in his career. Beltre has a .301 average in day games while Altuve is hitting .316.

• The Astros are 41-56 when the opposition has a right-hander on the mound. The Rangers are 16-24 when the opponent starts a left-hander. Comments