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Royals foiled in 8th after Keller's strong start

Rookie right-hander exits with lead following Dozier's go-ahead HR
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

KANSAS CITY -- For the second time this week, the Royals held a late lead, which in recent years almost assured them a victory.

But those bullpens of yesteryear are but a memory now. The Royals gave up a one-run lead in the ninth inning to start this homestand on Monday in an eventual loss, and the bullpen couldn't hold a one-run lead against the Astros on Sunday afternoon.

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KANSAS CITY -- For the second time this week, the Royals held a late lead, which in recent years almost assured them a victory.

But those bullpens of yesteryear are but a memory now. The Royals gave up a one-run lead in the ninth inning to start this homestand on Monday in an eventual loss, and the bullpen couldn't hold a one-run lead against the Astros on Sunday afternoon.

View Full Game Coverage

Right-hander Brandon Maurer gave up a game-tying home run to Carlos Correa in the eighth inning, and the Astros added two more runs in the inning off Maurer and left-hander Tim Hill for a 7-4 win and a sweep of the three-game set at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals have lost six straight, and 12 of 13.

Royals 22-year-old starter Brad Keller was solid against a red-hot Astros team that has won 11 straight. Keller gave up three runs over six innings in his fourth Major League start.

"He's a kid with a lot of aptitude," manager Ned Yost beamed afterward. "He learns very quickly. He retains, he seeks knowledge. He's a smart kid."

Video: HOU@KC: Yost discusses Keller's aptitude for the game

Even the Astros were impressed.

"He's 22? Really? Wow," Correa said. "A lot of potential. A really good pitcher. He's not a comfortable at-bat out there. He did a good job shutting us down. Wow, he's 22? That's impressive. He's a good pitcher."

Video: KC@HOU: Dozier smashes a 2-run homer to left-center

Hunter Dozier clubbed his third home run of the season, a two-run shot in the third inning that gave the Royals a 4-2 lead.

Keller got out of a huge jam in the sixth. Clinging to a 4-3 lead, Keller gave up singles to Josh Reddick and Evan Gattis that put runners on first and third with none out.

But Keller struck out Marwin Gonzalez on a 3-2 fastball, then he got Brian McCann to roll into a 4-6-3 double play, preserving the lead.

"I was able to get deep into the game, keep the team in it," Keller said. "To keep a team like that, keep the ball on the ground with them, I feel like I did pretty well as far as that. That's a good hitting team, and they've got pop so to keep them on the ground, I'm happy with that.

"[In the sixth we had a] leadoff single and then wild pitch, then another hit, just kind of snowballed real fast on me. I just kind of settled down. Then I got a three-ball count to Gonzalez right there, and settled down and made pitches right there. I'm pretty happy with that as well."

Video: KC@HOU: Merrifield leaves after fouling ball off knee

Royals super utility man Whit Merrifield fouled a pitch off the inside of his left knee and immediately went to the ground in the second inning. He eventually limped off the field with help from athletic trainer Nick Kenney and was replaced by Adalberto Mondesi. The club announced that Merrifield sustained a contusion and is considered day to day.

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Mike Moustakas was ejected in the bottom of the third inning and Danny Duffy in the sixth for arguing from the dugout. Moustakas had moments before been called out at home on a close play trying to score from second base on Salvador Perez's single to left. Royals replay specialist Bill Duplissea, an MLB-best 17-of-20 in challenges coming into the game, called for a review. But the call was ruled to stand, which infuriated the dugout, including Moustakas, who began jawing with Tumpane. More >

Video: HOU@KC: Moustakas ejected for arguing call in the 3rd

"I mean, they're not gonna overturn that," Yost said of the challenge. "Umpires, it's not clear and convincing enough for them in New York to overturn that. I felt like the hand was in there before the tag was made. It was close, but I felt like it was in there before it was made."

As for the ejections, Yost said, "At times, they can get upset with the strike zone a little bit, some of that, too. [Tumpane] gave [Moustakas] a warning. Moose was barking at him, he gave him a warning, and he said something."

Video: HOU@KC: Duffy ejected for arguing prior to 6th inning

UP NEXT
Right-hander Ian Kennedy (1-6, 5.13 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals as they open a three-game set with the Rangers at 7:15 p.m. CT on Monday at Kauffman Stadium. Kennedy pitched his best game of the season on Tuesday against the Reds, throwing eight scoreless innings while permitting just three hits. Right-hander Bartolo Colon (3-4, 4.94 ERA) will start for the Rangers.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Hunter Dozier, Danny Duffy, Brad Keller, Whit Merrifield, Mike Moustakas