Break out the brooms, Royals fans, because it’s a sweep! For the first time this year, the Kansas City Royals have swept their opponent, and for the first time in about a quarter century, they swept an opponent on the road in a four-game set. That it was a close 3-2 victory against the lowly Detroit Tigers is secondary to that sweet, sweet W, and the Royals continue to amass those like they’re going out of style. Kansas City pitched well when they needed to, and thanks to the red-hot Carlos Santana, they mustered just enough offense.
But no matter how today’s game ended, the story of the game was going to be Brad Keller. The former Rule 5 pick has been nothing short of the Royals’ best pitcher for the last two years, inducing lots of grounders and weak contact along the way. Thus far this year, he has been somewhat of an enigma, doing...neither of those things.
Fortunately, today’s start turned out to be a very good one on the surface. Keller tossed six innings and only allowed two runs, with four strikeouts on the day against two walks, none of which occurred after the first inning. Keller got 14 swings and misses, a nice bump from previous outings.
Unfortunately, the ghosts in Keller’s machine are still there. Keller allowed seven batted balls with an exit velocity of over 100 MPH, and allowed two more with an expected batting average north of .500, per Statcast. Additionally, Keller worked with multiple baserunners in four of his six innings, giving up eight hits. The Tigers tagged Keller for one run each in the third and fourth innings, only escaping additional damage due to a well-timed double play in the fourth inning and a play at the plate in the third inning—all this against the worst hitting team in Major League Baseball.
That play at the plate also resulted in a jammed Salvador Perez finger, by the way. Perez would later leave the game due to the injury. Perez did not immediately leave the game, though, so hopefully that portends a relatively minor issue.
From an offensive standpoint, the Royals were mostly stymied by Tigers’ pitchers, who were effective at limiting baserunners and struck out seven Royals against zero walks. But Carlos Santana cracked the game open in the third inning, giving the Royals a lead they would not relinquish, with a very aesthetically pleasing shot to right field.
The Royals added their third and final run in the fifth inning with the opposite approach: small ball. Jarrod Dyson, starting in center field to give Michael A. Taylor the day off, doubled to left field. Nicky Lopez then put down a sac bunt. Whit Merrifield then hit a sac fly to left field—a line drive that was almost a home run—to score Dyson.
Then, the Royals bullpen set to work. Greg Holland Scott Barlow played with fire, allowing a baserunner to reach scoring position before recording a single out. But they simply decided to strike everyone out afterwards, doing so for five of their six combined outs. Josh Staumont then closed the door, lowering his ERA to a Wade Davisian 0.75.
Kansas City has won five in a row, and still has the best record in the American League at 14-7. They also seem to be channeling the energy from the 2014-2015 playoff squads, too; they are now 6-0 in one-run games, are putting teams away with feisty baserunning and situational hitting, and have four guys in the bullpen who are lights-out every night.
Tomorrow, they’ll head to Pittsburgh for a quick two-game set against the Pirates before an off day on Thursday.