Here’s what makes me think Brad Keller might wind up being alright:
It’s the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game against Anaheim. Keller had been cruising along all night, but back-to-back singles by Mike Trout and Justin Upton suddenly had the Angels in business against a guy making his second career big league start.
So what does Keller do? Nothing different. He starts Luis Valbuena with a two-seamer low and away, then pounds him up and in—fastball, fastball, fastball, the last cracking his bat and settling into Jon Jay’s glove in center.
Zack Cozart got the opposite approach. Fastball up and away, fastball up and away as he flied out to center as well.
What did I like about this? I liked the poise that a young guy had when things got tight. I liked that he trusted his stuff, didn’t try to paint the corner too much and wasn’t afraid to pitch up and in, knowing that a fastball left out over the plate could be hit a long way.
Nope and nope. Keller worked out of it with something approaching ease. And if the Royals offense had bothered to show up at all, he certainly pitched well enough for Kansas City to come away with a win.
[very Ron Howard on “Arrested Development” voice] They didn’t.
Andrew Heaney—in what was either the best game of his career or his good fortune to face the Royals on a night when they were as bad as bad can be—tossed a one-hit shutout, and as good as Keller and Trevor Oaks combined to be, that one hit was not a two-run homer, meaning the Royals lost 1-0.
Baseball can be a cruel game.
Rather than our typical 850-1,000 word opus, tonight’s recap will be rather brief because… um… nothing happened? Here is a list of Kansas City baserunners, in its entirety, for nine innings of baseball:
- Jon Jay was hit by a pitch to lead off the first.
- Hunter Dozier singled in the fifth.
- Jorge Soler walked in the seventh.
End of list. No player advanced to second. According to Statcast, Dozier’s single—which exited at 109.4 mph—was the hardest-hit ball of the night and one of only two balls hit by a Royals player harder than 100 mph (the other was Alex Gordon’s fifth-inning groundout). So yeah… not the best night for Kansas City’s offense.
One almost wishes it were a blowout, for no other reason than that it wasted a fine performance from Keller and his bullpen supplementation. Almost every time there was trouble, Keller and Co. worked out of it:
- A one-out walk to Andrelton Simmons in the first was negated after a Trout double play ball to Moustakas, who was straight-up Hoovering at third all night. He made a diving stop to start this 5-4-3 and made a backhand grab in foul territory to nab Cozart in the seventh.
- A leadoff Justin Upton single in the second was followed by Valbuena flyout, Cozart strikeout and Martin Maldonado strikeout.
- The aforementioned fourth inning.
The fifth inning yielded the game’s lone run, and kudos go to Mike Scioscia for devising it. Chris Young socked a one-out single to left, followed by a Michael Hermosillo single. On Ian Kinsler’s flyout to right, Young moved up 90 feet to put men on the corners with two down. Hermosillo took off for second on an 0-1 count and Salvador Perez fired to a covering Whit Merrifield; as soon as the ball was out of Salvy’s hand, Young broke to the plate and even if Merrifield had immediately thrown home, I doubt he would’ve been able to nab young, who got an excellent jump.
And to the best of my knowledge, that is literally all that happened. Because on 116 pitches, Andrew Heaney threw a one-hit shutout, striking out four.
The Bright Spot: Keller was good, but I might’ve been more impressed with Trevor Oaks, who pitched three shutout, high-leverage innings close and late.
The Nadir: It probably gets worse than being one-hit by Andrew Heaney, but I’d just as soon not find out.
The Next Step: Win, lose or draw, Wednesday will be awesome because Wednesday is Ohtani Time! In the first series between these two in April, Ohtani was supposed to start the Sunday contest before weather forced a postponement. I am excited to see him.
I am less excited to see Ian Kennedy.