Royals

In win over White Sox, Brad Keller remains one of the brightest spots of Royals’ season

Brad Keller got the win against the White Sox on Saturday night in Chicago and improved to 6-5.
Brad Keller got the win against the White Sox on Saturday night in Chicago and improved to 6-5. AP

When the Royals flip back through the script they wrote for this 2018 season, the plot holes will jump off the pages.

There is the list of decisions made about the relief corps that banished the Royals bullpen to the cellar of baseball with a league-worst 5.33 ERA.

There is the feeble offense that entered Saturday slugging a 29th-ranked .373 and that during a five-win month of June batted a majors-low .193.

And don’t forget the two fluke injuries that knocked significant right-handed power out of the lineup at different junctures in the season: Catcher Salvador Perez slipped on stairs while carrying luggage three nights before opening day and partially tore a ligament in his knee, and outfielder Jorge Soler tripped out of the batter’s box in the midst of a nine-game losing streak and fractured his toe in June.

But one plot twist the Royals won’t rue is the emergence of their youngest Rule 5 pitcher as a viable major-league starter. Brad Keller on Saturday night again proved he belonged as the Royals beat the White Sox 3-1 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The outing was not perfect. Afterward, Keller would call it a “battle game.” He made it through only five innings, his pitch count rising to 94 because of a strenuous final two frames. He issued three walks and struck out six batters. He yielded seven hits, though some were results of defensive shifts.

“I feel like I made my pitches and some still went for hits,” Keller said. “Just one of those games I battled in and out of trouble all night. Tried to get as deep in the game as I could to keep the team in it.”

In the third inning, shortstop Adalberto Mondesi tried to make a play on a ball hit up the middle by Adam Engel and got crossed up with third baseman Alcides Escobar as Mondesi floated back to the left side of the diamond. In the fourth, Escobar charged a ground ball hit by Jose Abreu but could not deliver the ball quickly enough to first baseman Lucas Duda, resulting in an infield hit. In the fifth, Mondesi went after Yolmer Sanchez’s line drive up the left side of the infield to try to cut it off, but he wound up kicking the ball toward the left-field line instead. Sanchez was credited a double on the play.

But Keller never let the innings snowball. None of those runners scored. The first two batters of the fourth inning reached base, but Keller ended the threat by striking out two of the final three who went to the plate. The White Sox strung together three straight hits in the fifth but never sent anyone home. Perez cut down one of them, as he threw out Engel trying to steal second base. And with runners on the corners and two outs, Keller induced his sixth ground ball of the game to get out of the inning.

“He did a great job of really limiting the damage,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Had chances to fold, had runners in scoring position less than two outs, made huge pitches when he needed to.”

Keller pitched most of the evening at a 1-0 deficit after allowing a solo home run to Nicky Delmonico in the second inning. He might have lost Saturday had the Royals offense in the sixth inning not figured out White Sox starter Dylan Covey, who had allowed one hit through five innings.

Alex Gordon hit a solo homer to tie the game 1-1 and absolve Keller of a loss. Then Duda, who roped a two-out double to right field, scored the go-ahead run on Jorge Bonifacio’s single. Covey was yanked from the game immediately.

Keller triumphed as the Royals improved to 38-85.

“I felt like my stuff was there today,” said Keller, whose 3.32 ERA in 35 games (14 starts) is one of the top 10 best posted by qualified rookies in the American League. “I put the ball where I wanted to. I felt in command the whole game.”

Royals relievers Brian Flynn, Kevin McCarthy, Tim Hill and Brandon Maurer all worked scoreless outings to keep the White Sox at bay through the eighth inning. Maurer, who allowed a leadoff double to Abreu when he took the mound in the eighth, even struck out three batters. He allowed only one earned run and struck out 13 in his last nine innings.

Given an extra run of cushion on Escobar’s RBI single in the ninth, Wily Peralta cruised through the bottom third of the White Sox order and recorded his eighth consecutive save.

“The bullpen came in and was absolutely phenomenal tonight,” Yost said.

Royals 3, White Sox 1

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

5

0

1

0

0

2

.302

Gordon lf

2

1

1

1

2

0

.238

Perez c

4

0

1

0

0

2

.238

Duda 1b

4

1

1

0

0

0

.235

Bonifacio rf

3

1

1

1

1

0

.209

O’Hearn dh

3

0

0

0

0

1

.182

Herrera ph-dh

1

0

0

0

0

0

.247

Mondesi ss

3

0

0

0

1

0

.261

Phillips cf

3

0

0

0

1

3

.219

Escobar 3b

4

0

1

1

0

0

.208



Chicago

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Moncada 2b

4

0

1

0

0

2

.219

Sanchez 3b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.248

Abreu 1b

4

0

2

0

0

0

.269

Palka dh

4

0

1

0

0

2

.238

A.Garcia rf

4

0

0

0

0

3

.234

Delmonico lf

3

1

1

1

1

2

.229

Anderson ss

4

0

0

0

0

1

.245

Smith c

3

0

1

0

0

0

.284

L.Garcia ph

1

0

0

0

0

0

.279

Engel cf

3

0

2

0

0

1

.223

Narvaez ph

1

0

0

0

0

1

.276



Kansas City

000

002

001

3

6

0

Chicago

010

000

000

1

9

0

LOB—Kansas City 7, Chicago 8. 2B—Duda (10), Sanchez (25), Abreu (35). HR—Gordon (8), off Covey; Delmonico (5), off Keller. RBIs—Gordon (31), Bonifacio (12), Escobar (26), Delmonico (17). SB—Mondesi (16), Escobar (7), Engel (13). CS—Engel (4).

Runners left in scoring position—Kansas City 5 (Merrifield 2, Duda, O’Hearn, Phillips); Chicago 5 (Sanchez, Abreu 2, Delmonico, Anderson). RISP—Kansas City 2 for 7; Chicago 0 for 9.

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Keller, W, 6-5

5

7

1

1

0

5

94

3.32

Flynn, H, 3

<AF>2/3

0

0

0

1

1

10

4.11

McCarthy, H, 12

<AF>2/3

1

0

0

0

1

11

3.54

Hill, H, 11

<AF>2/3

0

0

0

0

2

12

4.95

Maurer, H, 2

1

1

0

0

0

3

18

8.57

Peralta, S, 8-8

1

0

0

0

0

1

11

3.48

Chicago

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Covey, L, 4-10

5<AF>2/3

4

2

2

3

6

102

5.87

Cedeno

1<AF>1/3

0

0

0

0

1

13

3.00

Gomez

<AF>2/3

1

0

0

0

1

9

6.30

Avilan

1

0

1

1

2

0

14

3.62

Minaya

<AF>1/3

1

0

0

0

0

6

4.44

Inherited runners-scored—McCarthy 1-0, Hill 1-0, Cedeno 1-0, Avilan 1-0, Minaya 2-1. WP—Covey.

Umpires—Home, Tripp Gibson; First, Ryan Additon; Second, Adrian Johnson; Third, Mark Carlson.

T—3:06. A—19,018 (40,615).

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