Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller went from throwing a no-hitter through six innings to not even having the best pitching performance by a starter in the game.
The Cardinals turned a no-hit bid around with a five-run inning and Keller ended up with the loss as the Royals fell 6-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals in front of an announced 22,494 at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night. The Cardinals shut the Royals out in back-to-back games.
The Cardinals (63-55) swept the two-game series with the Royals (43-78) and took the season series between the in-state rivals 3-1.
Keller (7-13) finished the night having allowed three runs on three hits and three walks in six innings. He pitched to the first three batters of the seventh, but he did not record an out in the inning.
“It was a grind, for sure,” Keller said of his outing. “I battled my mechanics all night. Felt like I wasn’t ahead of a lot of guys. Fortunately, we had some guys in the right spot that they hit the ball hard right at. Tough luck in the seventh inning with five or six straight singles. I just tried to keep the team in it as much as I could.”
Keller had no feel for his slider and basically worked off his sinker and his four-seam fastball for six innings. Keller managed to minimize the Cardinals’ offense. Two walks in the third inning put a runner on second base for the first time in the game. That’s as close as the Cardinals came to a scoring threat until the seventh.
“I was telling trainers in here, most of the time you see guys throw no-hitters it looks like they kinda cruise through innings,” Keller said. “I was grinding out there, a lot of pitches, a lot of battled counts. I got 3-2 to quite a bit of guys. It really wasn’t on my mind. I was just trying to get the game.”
Keller, who’d thrown 96 pitches through six innings, hadn’t allowed a hit when Marcell Ozuna started the seventh inning with a hard-hit single into left field.
Paul DeJong followed with another single, and the third batter of the inning, Matt Carpenter, singled up the middle to drive in the game’s first run and bring Keller’s outing to a close.
“He was really good,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Keller. “The walks hurt him. The walks probably cost him an inning (in terms of pitch count). He kept coming out of his delivery. He’d get it, then come out of it and lose it for three or four pitches and that’s when you’d see the 3-0 or 3-1 counts and the quicker walks.
“But you got through six with 95 pitches and no hits. I told (pitching coach) Cal (Eldred) that I’m going to send him back out in the seventh and I’m going to take him to 110 or 115, basically 20 more pitches. I wasn’t going to quick-snatch him out of there. I’m going to give him a chance to get through the inning and win the ballgame.”
Keller gave way to reliever Kevin McCarthy with two men on and no outs in the seventh, and Yadier Molina singled through the left side of the infield to drive in the second run of the inning.
The next batter, Kolten Wong, hit a soft dribbler between the pitcher’s mound and home plate, but Royals rookie catcher Meibrys Viloria and McCarthy nearly collided going after the ball and no throw was made as the slow roller loaded the bases with no outs.
Cardinals rookie outfielder Randy Arozarena, promoted from the minors on Tuesday, collected his first major-league hit on a ground ball against the drawn-in infield with the bases loaded. The ball hit off the glove of shortstop Nicky Lopez before hitting the runner, Molina.
Had Molina been in front of the field and the ball hit him first, Molina would’ve been out and it would have been ruled a dead ball. However, with the fielder in front of the runner, the runner was not out and it remained a live ball and a run scored on the play.
Dexter Fowler followed with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to make it 4-0. The Royals couldn’t turn a double play on Tommy Edman’s ground ball up the middle and the fifth run of the inning scored on a fielder’s choice.
DeJong tacked on a solo home run in the eighth inning, his 20th homer of the season, and the Cardinals took a 6-0 lead into the ninth.
Cardinals starting pitcher Dakota Hudson (11-6) tossed six scoreless innings and allowed five hits and two walks. Tyler Webb, John Gant and Junior Fernandez combined for three innings of no-hit relief for the Cardinals.
Royals first baseman Ryan O’Hearn had a single and a double in his first two at-bats. The left-handed slugger had gone 3-for-39 since being recalled from Triple-A on July 27. His last two-hit game in the majors came on June 11.
The Royals will have Thursday off before starting a three-game weekend series against the New York Mets on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.