Kansas City Royals

Keller cruises to first win since April, but Royals have to settle for doubleheader split in St. Louis

Wednesday’s doubleheader included a little bit of a reversal of roles for Royals starting pitchers Homer Bailey and Brad Keller. Bailey entered the day leading the Royals in wins and had been one of their steady while not spectacular pitchers since the season started.

Of course, the St. Louis Cardinals also had a ton of familiarity with Bailey. He’d started more games against the Cardinals than any active pitcher in the majors.

Meanwhile Keller had made just his third appearance and first start against the Cardinals. Whereas Bailey had been largely consistent, Keller came into the day having muddled through recent starts which had been distinguished by a lack of command and an inconsistent pitching delivery.

How each starter fared certainly set the tone for each half of the doubleheader split the Royals earned in their I-70 series against the Cardinals on Wednesday at Busch Stadium.

Keller, who hadn’t won since April, led the Royals to an 8-2 Game 1 win in front of an announced 42,725. The Royals never trailed, broke the game open with a six-run third inning and held the Cardinals scoreless for the first seven innings.

In the nightcap, the Cardinals chased familiar foe Bailey from the game in less than two innings on their way to a 10-3 win in front of an announced 42,529 for the second game.

The Cardinals lineup immediately started grinding away at-bats and running up Bailey’s pitch count. Bailey, who made his 28th career start against the Cardinals, threw 28 pitches to get through the first four batters with just one out recorded.

“A lot of foul balls, they laid off some really good pitches, so just go back and try to figure out what I’m missing here,” Bailey said.

And the 28th pitch got tagged by Cardinals cleanup hitter Marcell Ozuna over the right field wall for a three-run home run at the end of a 12-pitch at-bat. Bailey also hit a batter, Yadier Molina, in his 42-pitch first inning.

“We were actually trying to go in, so I completely yanked that one,” Bailey said of the final pitch to Ozuna. “We were going to go in right there. Even though it was a miss, it wasn’t that terrible of a pitch. He happened to just be able to keep it in line.”

Bailey struck out a batter to start the second, but then he gave up a single to opposing pitcher Adam Wainwright followed by a two-run home run by Matt Carpenter. Bailey left with two outs in the second and the Cardinals leading 5-0.

Adalberto Mondesi’s third-inning RBI single in Game 2, part of a two-run inning for the Royals, made him one of seven Royals to record 40 RBIs in a season before June 1. The group includes John Mayberry, Hal McRae, George Brett, Jeff King, Mike Sweeney and Jermaine Dye.

After Hunter Dozier’s 10th home run of the season, a towering blast to left field in the fifth inning, the Royals were within striking distance, 5-3.

However, reliever Richard Lovelady gave up a solo home run in the sixth on the first pitch he threw to Dexter Fowler. After 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, Barlow gave up four runs with two outs in the seventh as the Cardinals took a 10-3 lead.

Royals catcher Martin Maldonado (2-for-2, walk, hit by pitch) reached base four times in the nightcap.

“I thought our offense was doing a good job of pressuring them every inning,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We got (Adam) Wainwright’s pitch count up. I was just hoping we could hold it (at 5-3) and then break through. I thought (Jorge Lopez) gave up two good innings. (Glenn Sparkman) did a good job.”

In the first game, Jorge Soler hit his team-leading 11th home run of the season, and Whit Merrifield went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Nicky Lopez reached base three times (one hits, two walks), while Mondesi and Dozier drove in two runs apiece.

Keller (3-5) pitched into the eighth inning, including seven scoreless to start the day, and held the Cardinals to one hit until the eighth. He allowed two runs, two hits and four walks in seven innings after he didn’t record an out in the eighth.

“Anytime you get run support like that, you just basically go out there and say here it is and try to get in deep in the game as possible,” Keller said.

Keller last win came on April 12 against Cleveland, and he’d lost each of his last four decisions over six starts.

On Wednesday, Keller needed just 75 pitches to get through six innings. He allowed just one hit, in the second. Keller did hit a pair of batters and walked four, but he managed to work around those hiccups for most of the night.

“He covered it great,” Yost said of Keller. “He didn’t allow any of that to kind of fester into trouble for him. He just came back and made good pitches after that.”

Keller gave up a walk and a single to start the eighth inning. Kevin McCarthy, called up Tuesday, took over. McCarthy, who’d posted a 0.87 ERA in the minors since April 28, gave up a two-run double.

“I felt like my misses were a lot more around the zone, sliders in the dirt — not hanging,” said Keller, who retired 10 consecutive batters during one stretch. “That last inning, just some splitters got away from and kind of sailed. For the most part, I felt like the fastball was close.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.