But after five scoreless innings and 86 pitches thrown against one of Major League Baseball’s most potent attacks, the veteran hurler was disappointed he didn’t get more.
“My job is to go out there and throw as many as I can,” Keuchel said. “I thought  pitches, I had enough to at least go six.
“With how many games we’re playing, I thought I had at least 100 pitches tonight. That didn’t happen. I’m not very happy with that, but that’s the competitor in me and we’re going to have to figure out something tomorrow because we have a lot more guys down now, too.”
Keuchel makes a valid point. The White Sox (16-16) are in the midst of 17 games in 17 days, including a five-game series starting Monday in Kansas City and then three more in the Bronx against the Yankees (24-9) next weekend.
There’s hope Lucas Giolito will come back from the COVID-19 related injured list and start Monday or in Tuesday’s doubleheader. With Keuchel being removed after five on Saturday, the White Sox turned to two scoreless innings from Kendall Graveman followed by Joe Kelly and then Liam Hendriks for a five-out save.
Graveman threw 18 pitches overall, while Hendriks threw 26, but manager Tony La Russa has worked to manage the usage of these high-leverage relievers to keep them healthy for the entire season. Keuchel worked out of trouble in that fifth, protecting a 2-0 lead by getting Anthony Rizzo on a groundout to second baseman Josh Harrison to strand the bases loaded after walks issued to DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge.
That inning seemed to be more of a challenge than a trouble spot for the southpaw.
“I’m always thinking. I’m always thinking ahead of what’s on the field,” Keuchel said. “Anybody panicking is everybody but myself. It’s just a matter of executing pitches like I have been the last couple outings and who knows, maybe I can get seven or eight innings at some point this year.”
“I thought Keuchel was good, [his] cutter, sinker, change. I thought he was pretty sharp,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We knew he was coming off a good game against Boston. I know it’s been a slow start, [but] he’s throwing the ball better than that would suggest.”
In that last start on Sunday at Fenway Park, Keuchel yielded two runs on eight hits in six innings with five strikeouts to get the win. He entered the third game of this four-game set with a 2.23 ERA, .218 opponents average, .541 opponents OPS and just two home runs allowed in nine career starts vs. the Yankees.
So, he’s no stranger to holding strong against these tough New York squads, even this current version with its pronounced right-handed power.
“He’s spent his whole career pitching against good teams, rights and lefts,” La Russa said. “He beat a good team in Boston. When he executes his pitches, he’s got a lot of weapons.”
“If I could make some pitches and execute early, I felt like I had a good chance,” Keuchel said. “It’s fun to pitch against a team like that with the way they are swinging the bats and the depth of their lineup. They can kind of interchange a few guys every night, it seems like.”
Since the second half of last season, when he posted a 6.82 ERA in 14 games (13 starts), Keuchel hasn’t been the sturdy hurler seen most of his career. And with two losses already to the Yankees in this series, La Russa was playing all the cards to get the winning hand Saturday. Factor in right-handed hitters Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson and Gleyber Torres as the scheduled Yankees for the sixth, and La Russa’s move is understandable.
More outings like his last two, though, make Keuchel an even greater option to go deeper into starts as he clearly prefers.
“They did a heck of a job, keeping us in the ballgame the whole game and giving us a shot to win,” said shortstop Tim Anderson of the pitching, after scoring the game-winning run on Luis Robert’s single against Aroldis Chapman. “We were able to deliver, and we got the win.”
“My goal is to go at least six innings every start,” Keuchel said. “Tonight was no different.”