CHICAGO -- Though Brad Keller pitched his shortest start since the All-Star break on Saturday night at Guaranteed Rate Field, he was nonetheless effective yet again.
Keller needed 94 pitches to get through five innings, but he consistently worked around trouble as the Royals provided him just enough offense to beat the White Sox, 3-1. The young right-hander now owns a 3.65 ERA in six second-half starts.
"[Keller] did a great job of really limiting the damage," manager Ned Yost said. "He had chances to fold, runners in scoring position with less than two outs, and made huge pitches when he needed to. He was in big trouble in the third, fourth and fifth and pitched his tail off, and at that point I figured that was enough."
"This was a battle game," Keller said. "Felt like I made my pitches and some still went for hits. Sometimes you're in games where you've just got to keep the team in it -- I battled in and out of trouble all night."
With the 14th start of his season in the books, Keller is quietly putting together one of the best rookie campaigns in the big leagues. He is the second American League rookie to reach the 100-innings mark this season, and his 3.32 ERA also ranks second among AL rookies with at least 10 starts.
In August, Keller has allowed eight runs in 24 1/3 innings after his five frames of one-run ball Saturday. He didn't walk a batter, the second time in 14 starts he hasn't issued a free pass.
• Nun throws great first pitch
Despite the impressive run prevention, Keller admitted some frustration with how many hits fell in for the White Sox.
"I felt like my stuff was there today, I put the ball where I wanted to and I felt in command the whole game," Keller said. "It's just they got to two strikes and kept fouling stuff off. I felt super confident today and they just put the bat on the ball."
Kansas City hitters struggled early against White Sox starter Dylan Covey, tallying just one hit through five innings. But Alex Gordon woke up the offense with a one-out solo home run in the sixth to bring the Royals even, and Jorge Bonifacio drove in Lucas Duda with a single after Duda doubled with two outs.
"Good to finally have a ball that nobody caught," Yost said of Gordon's home run. "I saw some stat today that his adjusted average should be something crazy, but yeah, finally glad to see him catch a break."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
No way, Jose: One night after getting burned by Jose Abreu with a lead in the eighth inning, the Royals were in danger of blowing another Saturday when Abreu led off against Brandon Maurer with a double. But Maurer didn't seem fazed a bit. He struck out the next three batters -- Daniel Palka, Avisail Garcia and Nicky Delmonico -- on 11 pitches, shutting down Chicago's first hint of a big inning since the fifth.
Over his last nine appearances since July 26, Maurer has given up just one run in nine combined innings while striking out 13.
"Lock it down," Maurer said of his mindset after Abreu's double. "I think I'm just finally trusting my stuff and staying in my mechanics better than I had been previously. Other than that, I'm just letting it eat."
"Abreu just smoked that, I think it was a slider, over Gordon's head, I mean that ball was on a rail," Yost said. "And then [for Maurer] to come back and strike out the next three hitters with really, really good sliders, good located fastballs, and -- just real pleased. He had a little bit of a rough go, but his last [several] outings have been really, really good."
Gordon's home run in the sixth inning was the 168th of his career, moving him one behind Hal McRae for fourth place in Royals franchise history.
The Royals conclude their three-game series with the White Sox at 1:10 p.m. CT on Sunday, sending Heath Fillmyer (1-1, 3.61 ERA) to the mound at Guaranteed Rate Field. Among AL rookies with at least six starts this season, Fillmyer's .237 batting average against ranks third. Reynaldo Lopez (4-9, 4.40) goes for Chicago.