Brad Keller shines in Royals win and teammates are noticing
Their place in the standings offers no resemblance to the days of 2014 and 2015, but the Royals have dropped some subtle reminders inside Kauffman Stadium over the past couple of weeks. The trend has come in a few forms, most specifically the club returning to finding a variety in their sources of offense.
After nearly a week’s worth of examples, the leading exhibit came Tuesday night.
Five different Royals drove in a run, the impetus behind a 6-3 victory at Kauffman Stadium, which drew a crowd of 17,613 in the second game of a three-game set.
The Chicago White Sox left the bases loaded in the ninth, the Royals surviving a late collapse to win their seventh consecutive home game, the longest streak since August 2016.
The latest was credited to a familiar potion those postseason teams utilized — speed, athleticism and a small contribution from multiple spots in the lineup. The Royals (49-95) stole four bases.
“That’s what we have to do as a team. We have an athletic team that can put pressure on the defense,” said Royals leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield, who stole two bases and leads the American League with 33. “We got athletes that put pressure on the defense. Good things can happen.”
Kansas City clinched its fourth straight home series. And it improved to 6-4 in September. The Royals have not completed a winning month this year, the offense failing to provide consistency for long stretches.
But in the initial five innings Tuesday, they scored on a bunt, a fly out, a double and a pair of singles. Five players were responsible for the run-scoring plate appearances. Five players crossed home plate.
Merrifield swipe two bags. Adalberto Mondesi and Alex Gordon stole one each. Mondesi has 16 since the all-star break, most in baseball.
He used his speed at the plate, too. Mondesi dropped a safety squeeze as part of the three-run third, which turned into a single after the White Sox were slow to make the play and then botched the throw — just as they did one night earlier to give the Royals a walk-off win.
“We’re trying to take advantage of some athleticism,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We’re capable of doing some things. We did them tonight, and it paid off big for us.”
It’s the kind of effectiveness that supplied the reminders of those postseason runs.
The effectiveness on the mound came from right-hander Brad Keller once again.
With fewer than three weeks left on the regular season calendar, Keller has emerged as one of the top rookie pitchers in the American League. No first-year player in the league has thrown more innings with a better earned run average than Keller.
He had one brief hiccup Tuesday — the White Sox taking a short-lived 1-0 lead in the third — but he conveniently worked around trouble in the initial two innings and avoided it altogether as the start grew older. Keller survived seven innings of one-run baseball, allowing four hits and two walks. He did not allow a hit over the final four innings.
Nearing the finish line of a season he began in the bullpen, Keller has allowed two runs or fewer in seven straight starts. The earned run average stands at 3.04, the lowest since July 7.
“I felt like I didn’t have my best stuff,” Keller said. “But I settled down and gave the team a chance to get the lead and then go deep into the game.”