For a Rule 5 guy that didn’t make a single Spring Training start, Brad Keller has been pretty awesome. Let’s just go ahead and start this dreadful recap with that fact.
He currently leads the Royals staff in fWAR despite starting just 11 games and has carved out a niche as one of the best groundball pitchers in the American League.
Today, he continued doing his thing, locking down the White Sox for the better part of 6 1⁄3 innings and limiting them to just two runs. He also struck out a career-high nine batters on the afternoon. While Keller had his best outing in terms of strikeouts, he was also helped by a heavy dose of defense.
Salvador Perez easily threw out Nicky Delmonico from his knees as he tried stealing second. Adalberto Mondesi made a terrific sliding stop at second to steal a base hit from Yolmer Sanchez in the 4th. Alex Gordon nearly threw out two runners, one via deke and one via Super Arm. Newcomer Brett Phillips saved a run in the 5th on a sac-fly-preventing double play on a 101 MPH seed to Perez and followed that up with a diving catch in the 6th.
When you combine Keller’s dominance with the wonderful defense, one would think a victory was afoot. However, they would be wrong.
In a tale of two pinch-hit three-run homers, the White Sox avoided a sweep and broke the Royals hearts thanks to a Daniel Palka three-run homer in the 8th in a 6-4 win Thursday afternoon.
Happy 250 Word Lede Day.
A lot of things happened before any hearts were broken, so let’s start at the beginning.
Coming off a 10-run performance last night, the Kansas City offense was unable to get anything off of Reynaldo Lopez for the first seven innings of the ball game. Keep in mind that Lopez came into the game with the 7th highest ERA in baseball since June 15.
He began his afternoon nine-pitch 1st and followed that with a seven-pitch 2nd. His first hit was a broken bat jam shot by Alcides Escobar in the 3rd while his second was a Lucas Duda groundball that squeaked by the over-shifted White Sox defense. The Royals finally got a firm base hit on a Hunter Dozier single to right in the 5th and even threatened when Ryan O’Hearn followed with his 3rd walk in 11 plate appearances.
However, the threat was averted thanks to an Escobar strikeout and Mondesi flyout.
Keller got himself into some trouble in the 7th inning by walking two of the three batters he faced, forcing Ned Yost to turn to Tim Hill. Hill struck out Adam Engel, but Tim Anderson responded with a two-out RBI double to put the White Sox up 2-0.
But, the Royals weren’t quite done.
Escobar led off with a double in the 8th to bring the tying run to the plate. For some reason, Mondesi then bunted. Fortunately, Lopez didn’t fully grasp how fast Mondesi’s legs move, allowing him to reach with a single.
That put runners on first and third with nobody out and forced Renteria to go to his bullpen. Lefty Jace Fry came on only to face Alex Gordon and did his job by promptly striking him out. Juan Minaya was given a similar role, coming on only to face Sal. He did his job even more promptly, striking out Perez on three pitches.
Lefty Xavier Cedeno was chosen to be the third White Sox pitcher of the inning but was met with a Ned Yost countermove, as Whit Merrifield and his 162 wRC+ against lefties came on to hit for Duda.
Ned was rewarded for it.
Whit took a 2-1 Cedeno cutter over the fence in left-center field to put the Royals up 3-2.
The lead didn’t last long. Six pitches into the bottom half of the 8th, Jose Abreu smashed a 2-0 Jason Adam pitch over the centerfield fence to tie the game at 3-3. Avisail Garcia followed with a double, which prompted Ned Yost to retrieve Professional Set-Up Man Jason Hammel from the bullpen.
Yost decided to intentionally walk Omar Narvaez to set up the double play, and as it often does, intentionally giving another team a baserunner backfired. Daniel Palka turned on a 2-1 Hammel slider for this game’s second pinch-hit three-run home run in as many innings, putting the White Sox up 6-3.
Then things got weird.
Brett Phillips led off the 9th with a bloop double to left but was apparently doubled off when Garcia made a phenomenal over-the-shoulder catch at the wall in left and caught Phillips leaving second early. Yost protested that second base umpire Ted Barrett had originally called Phillips safe and challenged the call.
The call was overturned by a camera angle that wasn’t available to the broadcast, which caused confusion but was eventually settled on-air.
The call wound up costing the White Sox a run, as pinch-hitter Rosell Herrera drove in Phillips with a sac fly to center but wound up being inconsequential.
Luis Avilan would get Escobar to ground out to end the game.
The Royals fail to get their first road sweep since July of 2017 and drop to 34-74.
Up Next: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins, Friday, August 3, 7:10 PM CDT, Target Field. RHP Heath Fillmyer (0-1, 3.29 ERA) v. RHP Jake Odorizzi (4-7, 4.58 ERA).