Pirates hope to avoid series sweep at Royals

MLB Kansas City

The Kansas City Royals have found some consistency, as they have a season-best five-game winning streak and on Sunday will go for a weekend series sweep of the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.

Unlike the Royals (19-28), the Pirates (14-29) are in anything but a groove.

Already saddled with a slew of injuries, especially to pitchers, in this odd, shortened season in the year of a COVID-19 pandemic, the Pirates have had a rough time this weekend.

Saturday, they gave up what was the eventual winning run in a 7-4 loss when pitcher Trevor Williams attempted to field and flip a chopper with his glove but sent the ball over catcher Jacob Stallings’ head, an error that allowed a runner to score.

That game was delayed by half an hour because of a police event with a suspected gunman at Arrowhead Stadium, the NFL venue in the same complex as the Royals’ Kaufmann Stadium. While both teams were inconvenienced, the Royals already were at their ballpark and could prepare indoors for the game.

Pittsburgh was not allowed to leave its hotel until much later than originally scheduled. Manager Derek Shelton noted that the Pirates asked for the game to be further delayed, but were denied.

So, Shelton noted, the Pirates will go four days with no outdoor batting practice — Friday because of rain in the area, Saturday because of the police event, Sunday because it is a day game, and Monday because the club has a doubleheader against Cincinnati.

“That bothers me a little bit … but we adapt and adjust,” Shelton said of losing the opportunity for batting practice.

In the series finale, Pittsburgh right-hander Chad Kuhl (1-1, 3.38 ERA) is scheduled to face Kansas City right-hander Brad Keller (3-2, 2.60).

Keller has been a killer at home. His 0.50 ERA, on one earned run in 18 innings over three starts at Kauffman Stadium, is the lowest home ERA in the big leagues.

He’s also been stingy on mistake pitches that find the seats. He has not given up a homer in his past 48 innings, since Detroit’s Jake Rogers’ solo shot Aug. 9. 2019.

Monday, Keller gave up five runs, four of them earned, and eight hits in a loss at Cleveland. It left Kansas City with a seven-game losing streak — that quickly changed — and left Keller dejected.

“Probably the most frustrating outing of my life,” Keller said, according to the Kansas City Star. “I’ve said it many times, but some days baseball works that way and the ball doesn’t bounce your way. It just seemed like I made pitches when I had to and they just squeaked through the infield or whatever.”

Royals manager Mike Matheny understood the frustration but saw things very differently.

“I think that might have been his best (outing) this year,” Matheny said. “What a shame that the results were what they were. We’re talking quite a few singles — double-play balls just out of reach, finding spots. When he needed to make a pitch, he made a pitch.”

Like Keller, Kuhl will be facing an opponent for the first time.

Last Sunday, Kuhl gave up two runs and two hits in three innings, with five strikeouts and four walks, in a no-decision start against Cincinnati.

That was an exception to his trend — he has given up one run or fewer in five of his eight appearances. Six of his outings have been starts (1-1, 3.67).

–Field Level Media

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