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Keller stays in one batter too long as the Royals lose to Tampa Bay, 6-3.

Another lead lost late.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Heading to the Sunshine State to take on the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Royals looked to claim game one of a three-game set against the top team in the AL East. Unfortunately, a late inning go-ahead run proved fatal as Kansas City fell to the Rays, 6-3.

Throwing Brad Keller for the first time since his incident with Tim Anderson in Chicago last week, the 6’5 right-hander was given some early run support out of the gates. With Rays starter Yonny Chirinos recording the first two outs in the inning, he left a mistake up in the zone to red-hot Alex Gordon, who jumped all over the 3-2 pitch. Blasting it up near the catwalk, the ball sailed towards the scoreboard in right, putting the Royals on the board first. The lead didn’t stand long as Tampa Bay responded in the home half on a triple by Tommy Pham and a Sac-fly by Yandy Diaz.

After a few scoreless innings from Keller and Chirinos, the Royals found success in the long ball again in the fifth. Following his 0-5 performance with five strikeouts on Sunday, Jorge Soler muscled one over the left-field wall to give Kansas City a 2-1 lead. An inning later, the team leader in home runs, Hunter Dozier, mashed a solo shot to deep left to add some extra padding to the slim lead.

Taking a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth and allowing just three baserunners through the first five, Keller was knocked around a bit on a ringing RBI-double by Brandon Lowe. Able to escape while stranding two runners, the Royals held their lead intact heading into the final three innings of play.

Sending Keller out for the seventh, manager Ned Yost had shown earlier this season he wouldn’t hesitate to stretch him out in the late innings. Knowing how poor the bullpen has performed in close situations through the first 22 games of 2019, the decision to proceed with Keller didn’t come as too much of a shock. However, perhaps staying in one batter too long, Mike Zunino crushed a two-run homer to dead center, giving the Rays their first lead of the night.

The two-run advantage was plenty for the Tampa Bay bullpen to retire the Royals hitters without much of a threat. To make matters worse, Dozier was pinch hit for in the eighth inning likely due to the stiff back he had been dealing with in the last two games.

Now on a four-game slide and 7-16 overall, Kansas City will look to avoid another series loss tomorrow evening. Homer Bailey will attempt to earn his third straight victory in three starts. First pitch is slated for 6:10 CT.