Brad Keller entered this season as the unquestioned ace of a Royals staff that looked, on paper, to be a budding strength. And it was well earned. In the 360.1 innings he has pitched in since he was brought to Kansas City in the Rule 5 Draft, Keller has posted a 131 ERA+. His 82 ERA- is only bested by four Royals starters in franchise history.
But thus far in 2021, it has been a totally different story. After giving up five runs in the first inning on Opening Day, he struggled again in the first inning, giving up three runs, this time all with two outs.
Jose Abreu started the rally with a double, followed by back-to-back homers by Yoan Moncada and Yermin Mercedes. The White Sox tagged Keller for another run in the 2nd to put the Royals in a 4-0 hole that they wouldn’t escape from, turning into a 6-0 shutout loss.
And to be fair to Keller, he settled in after the rough first few innings. He was rocked a bit in the first, but he also victim to some soft hit balls that found grass and once those started finding gloves, he looked more like the Keller we know.
This was highlighted most in the 3rd inning, his first scoreless inning of the year, where he induced three ground ball outs. He struggled with walks, giving up three free passes, including one to Danny Mendrick with one out in the 4th that proved to be his last batter of the game. Keller was removed in favor of Kyle Zimmer after 69 pitches, giving up four runs in 3.1 IP.
The bigger story tonight was Keller’s counterpart Lance Lynn, who started the game about as well as possible, sitting the first 12 Royals down with ease. He needed just 42 pitches to get through the first four innings, and he still managed to strike out five Royals in those innings regardless.
Kansas City got their first hit on a Salvador Perez infield single in the 5th, but only because Lynn failed to cover first base on a ground ball to Abreu. Jorge Soler got their first true hit immediately after to give the Royals runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out, but Lynn got the next three batters to end the inning.
Kansas City entered today’s matchup 6th in the American League in runs scored with 33, but 25 of those runs came in the first two games of the season. Over the past four games, the Royals have failed to score even four runs in any of those contests, three of them being losses.
The White Sox added more runs in the 6th, tagging Carlos Hernandez for two runs. Josh Staumont got out of a bases loaded jam, however, to end the inning. Meanwhile, Lynn continued to dominate, cruising through nine scoreless innings. The Royals threatened in the 8th, but an Andrew Benintendi strike out ended the threat.
It was Lynn’s second complete game shutout of his career and his first since 2014. He struck out 11 Royals along the way without allowing a free pass and gave up just five hits. The win brought the White Sox back to .500 at 4-4 and dropped the Royals to .500 at 3-3.
Next Up: Kansas City Royals at Chicago White Sox, Saturday, April 10, 1:10 PM CDT, Guaranteed Rate Field. TBD v. RHP Dylan Cease (0-0, 5.79 ERA)