Royals

Royals blanked again, Phillies take advantage of Brad Keller’s mistakes

Royals’ Brad Keller struggling with pitching mechanics

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller explains the command issues he's been trying to iron out after a 7-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Kauffman Stadium on May 11, 2019. Keller walked 4, gave up 5 hits and 6 runs (5 earned).
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Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller explains the command issues he's been trying to iron out after a 7-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Kauffman Stadium on May 11, 2019. Keller walked 4, gave up 5 hits and 6 runs (5 earned).

At times the Royals young budding ace Brad Keller certainly looks the part. A big, strapping right-hander with a sinker about as easy for a hitter to elevate as a bowling ball and a slider that can practically break the spirit of an entire major-league lineup.

Of course, then there are those other nights. Whether teams have gotten a better feel for how to enjoy success against Keller in his second year in the majors or he simply has been struggling in ways he didn’t last season, he has been less than intimidating for stretches early this season.

The Royals were held scoreless for the second time in a week and Keller didn’t make it through six innings in a 7-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in front of an announced crowd of 24,463 at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday night. The Royals had gone 74 consecutive games without being shut out prior to Wednesday night’s loss in Houston.

Keller allowed six runs (five earned) on five hits and four walks. He struck out three, but also hit a batter and uncorked a wild pitch.

“I felt like I kept yanking my head and pulling off a lot of pitches,” Keller said. “We had a really good game plan going into the game, just didn’t quite execute exactly how we wanted to. Tried to go in on guys, yanked it and got them back over the middle. They didn’t miss them.”

Offensively, the Royals mustered just four hits (three singles). The lone extra-base hit came on a ninth-inning Alex Gordon double with two outs. As a team, they had just three at-bats with a runner in scoring position (0 for 3).

The Royals (14-26) will wrap up the first half of their six-game homestand on Sunday afternoon with the rubber match against the Phillies.

Keller (2-4) held the Phillies (22-16) to just two base runners — a single and a walk — the first time through the batting order, but he simply couldn’t consistently put his pitches where he wanted.

He faced four batters or fewer in three of his five innings, but he also needed 102 pitches to get through his outing (he pitched to two batters in the sixth inning). The Phillies took advantage of his mistakes and kept applying pressure whenever they had him on the ropes.

Keller battled inconsistent command in his previous start in Detroit (five walks), but he managed to limit the damage to two runs in a no-decision on May 5.

However, Keller has now allowed five runs or more in three of his past four starts. He hasn’t made it through six complete innings in three consecutive starts. He’s also walked 15 batters in his past four starts (21 2/3 innings). He’s recorded 13 strikeouts during that same stretch.

“It’s kind of been the same thing,” Keller said of his recent mechanical issues. “It’s like an evolving thing that we’re trying to stop real quickly. It feels like we stop one thing and then cause another thing. We’ll get it right, and we’ll get back on the horse.”

The Phillies loaded the bases in the third on a one-out walk, a bloop single and another walk which brought Bryce Harper to the plate with one out. Keller struck out Harper, but Rhys Hoskins followed with a two-run single.

A communication breakdown between Keller and catcher Martin Maldonado led to Maldonado getting crossed up on a pitch that was called a strike even though it wasn’t caught. The passed ball allowed the third run of the inning to score.

The Phillies added another run in the fourth on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice. Third baseman Hunter Dozier fielded the ball and stepped on third, but his throw home on the run veered toward the dugout and allowed the lead runner to score and put the Phillies up 4-0.

Keller retired the side in order in the fifth, but he didn’t get past the second batter of the sixth inning. He gave up a leadoff triple and walked the next batter before Royals manager Ned Yost replaced him with right-hander Glenn Sparkman out of the bullpen.

“He’s fighting his mechanics, which in turn keeps him fighting his command,” Yost said of Keller. “Walks hurt him, especially to guys lower in the order.”

The two runners Keller left on base each scored on ground-outs as the Phillies claimed a 6-0 lead in the top of the sixth.

Sparkman, Richard Lovelady and Brad Boxberger each pitched a scoreless inning of relief, though Sparkman allowed those inherited runners to score. Wily Peralta allowed one run in the ninth inning on a two-out infield single with the bases loaded.

Phillies 7, Royals 0

Philadelphia

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

McCutchen lf

5

1

1

2

0

0

.234

Segura ss

4

1

1

0

1

0

.302

Harper rf

5

1

1

0

0

2

.235

Hoskins 1b

4

0

1

2

1

0

.285

Realmuto dh

5

0

1

0

0

1

.271

Herrera cf

5

2

2

0

0

1

.250

Hernandez 2b

2

1

1

1

2

0

.299

Franco 3b

4

0

1

1

1

1

.241

Knapp c

2

1

0

0

2

0

.161



Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.293

Mondesi ss

4

0

1

0

0

2

.277

Gordon lf

4

0

1

0

0

0

.290

Dozier 3b

3

0

1

0

0

1

.320

Soler rf

2

0

0

0

0

0

.255

O’Hearn 1b

3

0

0

0

0

0

.186

Gutierrez dh

3

0

0

0

0

0

.283

Owings cf

3

0

0

0

0

2

.139

Maldonado c

3

0

0

0

0

1

.181



Philadelphia

003

102

001

7

9

0

Kansas City

000

000

000

0

4

1

E—Dozier (2). LOB—Philadelphia 10, Kansas City 4. 2B—Herrera (8), Gordon (11). 3B—Herrera (1). RBIs—McCutchen 2 (14), Hoskins 2 (34), Hernandez (15), Franco (28). SB—Mondesi (13).

Runners left in scoring position—Philadelphia 7 (McCutchen 2, Segura 2, Realmuto, Franco 2); Kansas City 3 (Dozier, O’Hearn 2). RISP—Philadelphia 4 for 16; Kansas City 0 for 3.

Runners moved up—McCutchen, Knapp, Gordon. GIDP—Gordon, Soler.

DP—Philadelphia 2 (Segura, Hernandez, Hoskins), (Eflin, Segura, Hoskins).

Philadelphia

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Eflin, W, 5-3

9

4

0

0

0

7

110

2.47

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Keller, L, 2-4

5

5

6

5

4

3

102

4.47

Sparkman

1

1

0

0

0

0

17

3.18

Lovelady

1

0

0

0

0

1

22

3.60

Boxberger

1

0

0

0

2

0

25

5.87

Peralta

1

3

1

1

1

1

27

6.50

Keller pitched to 2 batters in the 6th.

Inherited runners-scored—Sparkman 2-2. HBP—Keller (Hernandez), Eflin 2 (Dozier,Soler). WP—Keller. PB—Maldonado (5).

Umpires—Home, Phil Cuzzi; First, Gabe Morales; Second, Marty Foster; Third, Dan Bellino.

T—3:01. A—24,463 (37,903).

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.
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