Brad Keller, Jon Lester hope for improvement as Royals host Cards

MLB Kansas City

It’s always difficult for a starting pitcher to make back-to-back starts against the same opponent. But is it easier to come off a solid performance or a difficult outing?

The St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals will play the second game of a three-game series Saturday night with both starting pitchers facing the latter scenario.

The Cardinals will send left-hander Jon Lester (3-6, 5.57 ERA) to the mound against righty Brad Keller (7-11, 5.79).

St. Louis hopes to claim the series after taking the opener 6-0 on Friday. Jack Flaherty returned from the 60-day injured list and fired six scoreless innings of two-hit ball.

Keller had been improving lately after starting the season poorly, but he has lost his past two starts, including a defeat at St. Louis on Aug. 7. He allowed five runs on seven hits over five-plus innings.

The biggest culprit was his lack of control with his fastball. He tied a career high with five walks, including free passes to the first two batters he faced.

“What I was able to do with my slider last week I wasn’t able to do with my fastball,” he said Friday. “This week, I’ve really been focused on getting that same body movement I was able to get with my slider. Getting ahead early is big. In my last start, five walks — that’s never a good thing.”

Keller said there are advantages to building on good starts and correcting bad ones.

“Obviously you always want to be coming off a good performance,” he said. “I view it as just another opportunity to go out and work on what I’ve been working on. In my last start against these guys, I didn’t really have my best command, so I’m excited to get back out there and incorporate what I’ve been working on. I know how these guys reacted to my stuff, so I’m excited to make adjustments and pitch well.”

Keller will be making his seventh career appearance (fifth start) against the Cardinals. He is 1-3 with a 5.63 ERA against St. Louis in his career.

Lester allowed five runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings against the Royals on Sunday in St. Louis. He got a no-decision as the Cardinals managed to tie the game in the eighth inning before Kansas City won it in the ninth.

That result was the Cardinals’ lone defeat in the three-game series.

Lester said, “We had a chance to come out of here with a sweep, and I wasn’t able to do that. I think that’s kind of the building point.”

Lester will be making his first appearance at Kauffman Stadium since the 2014 American League wild-card game. He started that game for the Oakland A’s and pitched 7 1/3 innings, giving up six runs on eight hits.

Lester has had plenty of regular-season success in his career against the Royals. He is 9-3 in 14 starts with a 2.22 ERA and 2-3 with a 3.10 ERA in five starts all-time at Kauffman Stadium. His 2.22 career ERA against the Royals is the third best in major league history among pitchers with at least 85 innings pitched.

–Field Level Media

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