In his first two starts of the season, Kansas City Royals ace Brad Keller carried an ERA of almost 20. No one connected with the Royals expected that trend to continue, but there was a stadium-sized sigh of relief when Keller gave up just one run against the Los Angeles Angels in his last start.
Keller will try to build on that momentum Tuesday in the second game of a three-game series against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have won four straight games after taking Monday’s game 4-1 behind a stellar effort from starting left-handed pitcher Josh Fleming.
Keller escaped trouble in the first inning against the Angels, something he didn’t do in his first two starts. He allowed a combined eight runs in the first inning of those two starts. He not only didn’t give up a run in the first to the Angels, he allowed only one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings, with one walk and five strikeouts.
“That was the Brad Keller we were hoping to see,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said after the game. “That was fun to watch and I just kind of had an idea that he was going to come out aggressive and trust his stuff.”
Keller was pleased that the rough start appeared to be in the past.
“We can’t go back and change anything,” Keller said. “What happened, happened. We gotta look forward. We gotta make things better, we can’t continue to fall into that same rut of what we’re doing. For me, it was just, ‘OK, it’s in the past, I get a new start in five days.'”
Another new start happens against the Rays. The Rays are enduring an up-and-down season: They lost four straight early on, then won three of four, then lost three in a row before winning the next four straight.
The Rays will send left-hander Rich Hill to the mound on Tuesday. Hill has started slowly for his 10th club in his 17-year career. He’s 1-0 but carries a 7.53 ERA. In three starts he’s allowed 12 earned runs and four home runs in 14 1/3 innings.
“This loss falls solely on me,” Hill said after giving up four runs on seven hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings Thursday against the Texas Rangers. “I didn’t do a good job of getting us some length in the game and trying to preserve our bullpen, so that’s what’s tough about it.”
Hill has faced the Royals 12 times in his career, with three of those appearances coming as a starter. He’s 2-1 with a 6.00 ERA. His biggest problem against Kansas City has been his control. He’s walked 11 batters in 15 innings.
Keller has struggled in his career against Tampa Bay. He’s 0-2 with a 7.30 ERA. He’s given up 10 earned runs on 13 hits in 12 1/3 innings. He’s hoping that trend changes Tuesday.
–Field Level Media