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Keller shines in 2-1 win over Rays

The Royals end the Rays’ long winning streak.

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

In one of the fastest games of the season, Brad Keller looked like the Brad Keller of 2020, and the Royals’ offense did just enough on Tuesday night. The result was a 2-1 win for Kansas City, halting the Tampa Bay Rays’ 11-game winning streak and denying them a franchise-record 12th straight victory.

Brad Keller, long overdue for a good start this year, turned in his finest performance of the season against an offense that was absolutely cruising over the last couple of weeks. Keller breezed through seven innings without much of an issue. He needed just 95 pitches to get his 21 outs. The only run that scored against him was a two-out RBI single in the third by Yandy Diaz. He struck out seven and walked four, though none of them resulted in any runs.

Following a very rough start to the year, Keller’s season line is finally starting to stabilize. His ERA is below 6.00 for the first time this year now at 5.72. He looks like, following a rough start, that he’s getting back to his pre-2021 form.

Carlos Santana smashed his 10th homer of the season in the fourth, answering back after Tampa’s lone run. Rays starter Rich Hill retired the first 10 Royals prior to the home run. Santana became the first Royal of the season to reach the 10-homer mark.

The game remained tied 1-1 until the sixth, when Cam Gallagher and Whit Merrifield singled to open the frame. Salvador Perez doinked a one-out single into left to plate Gallagher, but the Royals squandered a chance to further capitalize when Hill struck out the next two hitters. Hill, who threw 99 pitches in eight full innings of work, K’d a total of 13 on the night and took a hard-luck loss.

Jake Brentz relieved Keller and fired a perfect eighth. They sent him back out for the ninth, triggering further questioning about the health of Josh Staumont, to get the first out. It was Kyle Zimmer, perhaps the most stable piece of the bullpen this year, that got the last two outs and earned the save. It’s his second save of the season - and his career.

Adalberto Mondesi made his season debut after missing the first 45 games with an oblique injury. He looked terrific, holding down the fort at shortstop. He also ripped two doubles, which were the only two extra-base hits for the Royals other than Santana’s homer. If he can stay healthy, which has always been the question, the Royals’ offense is going to get an enormous boost.

This was a really fast game, which was enjoyable! The only sad thing is that Rob Manfred must be happy knowing how fast the game went. The teams combined for 11 hits and 23 strikeouts, which is kind of 2021 baseball in a nutshell for you.

This is my annual disclosure that I like Tropicana Field. I visited it two years ago and it changed my opinion on it. It’s a fun stadium that houses a fun baseball team. The Rays are really good. Ending their winning streak is impressive. The Royals can do everything except for beat the White Sox, apparently.

The Royals are 23-23. They have won seven out of 10 since the 11-game losing streak. I know it doesn’t work like this, but they’re 23-12 if you take out the long skid. This team has talent. They have ability. If Keller stabilizes and Mondesi stays healthy, they could make some noise.