Keller sharp again, but bullpen falters in loss

August 21st, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Brad Keller pitched so well in the first six innings of Tuesday's game against the Orioles that Royals manager Ned Yost faced a decision when Baltimore came to bat in the seventh.

Keller had given up just three hits as the Royals held a 1-0 lead. Still, Yost is being careful about stretching Keller too far with over a month left in the season, so he pulled the right-hander. Kansas City's bullpen then stumbled as the O's rallied for a 4-1 victory at Camden Yards.

Keller was trying to break his four-game personal losing streak. His six shutout innings came with four strikeouts and two walks, and the righty didn’t get into very many troublesome situations. Overall, Keller threw 49 strikes and needed just 79 pitches to make it through the six innings as he got the Orioles to swing often early in the count.

Yost, though, is thinking about the future. Keller is in his second season in the Major Leagues, and he threw 140 1/3 innings last season. This year, he is already is at 164 innings, and that’s a big reason the skipper turned to his bullpen in the seventh.

“Here’s my issue with Keller; he’s one of our main guys moving forward,” Yost said. “He’s already [23 2/3] innings past what he threw last year, and we’re not even into September. So I’m not going to push him. For me to extend him out and do it, I’m not going to do it. Just can’t.”

That’s why Yost didn’t hesitate in going to the bullpen. Richard Lovelady came on in the seventh and gave up one run on three hits in one inning, and that left Keller with a no-decision as the game was tied.

Lovelady hurt his own cause by breaking too slowly to cover first base on a ball that DJ Stewart pulled to the right side. First baseman Ryan O’Hearn dove to his right but couldn’t get it before second baseman Whit Merrifield did. By that time, though, Lovelady was too late to get to first base, and Stewart reached on an infield single.

Rio Ruiz then followed with the game-tying single through a shift to left. The O's then took charge against Jacob Barnes (1-2) in the eighth.

Barnes walked two and later allowed the game-deciding three-run homer to Hanser Alberto with two outs. That gave the Orioles the 4-1 lead and helped them end an eight-game losing streak.

“I saw that big gap in left-center field and wanted to pull the ball over the shortstop,” Alberto said. “Obviously, I had a little more power and got the home run.”

Yost said the bullpen needs to help out Keller on a night like this. He turned in his 14th quality start but still came away with a no-decision, and the Royals eventually lost.

“He did his job [and] other guys are going to have to pick up the slack,” Yost said. “He gave us a strong six in 90-degree weather, and I’m just not pushing him. Other guys are going to have to pick up the slack.”

But Kansas City's offense could not give Keller much help. The Royals have now scored just six runs during his past five starts, and that hasn’t helped him.

“I know our hitters are really good, and we have a really good lineup,” Keller said. “It’s one of those things where you can’t really think about that. You’ve just got to go put the team in a position to win.”

Hunter Harvey (1-0) earned his first Major League win for the O's in just his second career game. Harvey, the son of former pitcher Bryan Harvey, retired the side in order in the eighth and struck out two. Mychal Givens closed it out, earning his 10th save of the season.