Keller commanding in final start of 2020

September 26th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- That is how you finish a season.

Royals right-hander powered through the Tigers on Friday with six scoreless innings to close out his 2020 campaign during Kansas City’s 3-2 victory.

Keller scattered four hits -- all singles --- walked none and struck out five.

“Heavy movement on his pitches and trusting his defense,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “That’s how I would describe it. He just controlled with heavy movement. He’s been a pleasure to watch this year. The way he competes, just a great way to finish his season.”

Keller, too, felt he made a big step forward in 2020.

“I believe so,” Keller said. “I feel like this season with all the work we did, the face time, the Zooms, the mechanical adjustments, I felt like my mechanics were there all season. I think it was big just moving forward.

“It was great that I ended on a high note. It sucks that it is coming to an end because we’re just hitting our stride as a team. But it was definitely a good way to end it for me.”

Keller lowered his overall ERA to 2.47. And he was even more dominant at Kauffman Stadium, allowing just one earned run over 33 innings for a 0.27 home ERA.

“I think he likes Kauffman,” Matheny said. “I think there is something to be said about liking your home park. You go to other parks, and sometimes guys miss it and still get homers, and that makes some guys try to do too much.”

Added Keller, “Honestly, I didn’t know that stat until I just walked into [the postgame Zoom]. It’s crazy. Obviously, I really like pitching here. It’s your own routine, especially with these COVID times. ... I’m just kind of blown away by that stat. I’m not going to lie to you.”

Keller retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced. The only jam he got into was in the fifth when the Tigers had two on and two out. But Keller got Isaac Paredes to roll out to third for the final out.

Keller again had his improving slider working, getting 14 called strikes or whiffs out of 40 tries with the pitch. He threw 86 pitches in all, 55 for strikes.

“That was the one thing for me the last few starts is that I felt like I was losing the feel for my slider,” Keller said. “But we worked on this stuff in between starts, and it might sound weird, but I was trying to get more athletic throwing my slider. And that paid off tonight. I got some swings and misses. It felt more like how it did at the beginning of the season.”

The Royals chipped away offensively to give Keller support.

drew a bases-loaded walk in the first. , who had a single, double and a triple, knocked in with an RBI three-bagger in the second. hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth to round out the scoring.

Mondesi’s triple, as expected, got the Royals’ bench going.

“It’s incredible,” Matheny said. “When he hits the ball like he did down the right-field line, the whole dugout gets up and starts watching. ... If you’re not excited watching this guy play, I’m not sure what you’re looking for.”