Kansas City Royals

Brad Keller pitches a gem and Bubba Starling picks up first hit as Royals beat the Tigers

Whether or not the Royals turn into second-half studs remains to be seen, but there has undoubtedly been a renewed energy in the ballpark two games into the post-All-Star-break portion of the season.

The arrival of local high school star and lifelong Royals fan Bubba Starling certainly contributed on Friday night, but the energy carried over with the help of Brad Keller’s outstanding pitching performance on Saturday night.

It also didn’t hurt one bit that Starling, a Gardner Edgerton High graduate, played a part in a rally that flipped the game in the Royals favor and eventually led to a 4-1 win over the Detroit Tigers in front of an announced 27,551 at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday.

Starling’s first hit came on an RBI single that tied the game in the fifth inning, and it also brought the crowd to its feet in celebration of a moment more than eight years in the making.

“It’s awesome. It means a lot,” Starling said. “I was talking to (Lucas) Duda, and I was like, ‘When did you get your first hit?’ He said he went through a long stretch before he got his. I was like, ‘Man, I hope I don’t get to that point.’ It was awesome to get that first knock out of the way.”

The Royals (32-61) clinched their first series win since June 17-19 in Seattle, and Keller hasn’t lost in four consecutive starts.

The Royals scored the last four runs of the game on Saturday as Cheslor Cuthbert (1 for 3), Nicky Lopez (1 for 3) and Starling (1 for 3) drove in runs. Whit Merrifield (2 for 3) extended his hitting streak to 11 games.

Keller (5-9) allowed just one run in eight innings. He yielded four hits, didn’t walk a batter for just the third time all season and struck out seven. Eighty-two of his 104 pitches were strikes.

“Me and (pitching coach) Cal (Eldred) were talking in the dugout,” Keller said. “We were going through some mechanical stuff, and today was probably the best I felt as far as that. Once you’re in your delivery, it’s a lot easier to pump strikes like that. It felt good today.”

Keller struck out four of the first six batters he faced, and he forced some uncomfortable-looking swings in the opening innings. He also broke a bat with an inside fastball that bored in on the hands of a left-handed hitter as if Keller had taken a power drill to the bat.

It surely didn’t help hitters hoping to pick up the spin on Keller’s slider that a slight splash of sunlight remained just in front of the mound when the game started. The ball came out of the shadows and caught sunlight a split second after Keller released it.

The Tigers (28-59) scored the game’s first run on Harold Castro’s two-out triple down the right-field line and off the wall in the corner in the second inning. Keller had given up just two hits, but they’d quickly yielded a run for the Tigers.

The score remained 1-0 as both pitchers baffled hitters into the fifth inning.

The Royals half of the fifth started with Hunter Dozier lining a double off the right-field wall, their first hit since Merrifield singled in the first at-bat of the bottom of the first inning.

After a walk by Jorge Soler and a fly ball to deep center which allowed Dozier to advance to third, Starling stepped in the box with one out and a runner in scoring position.

Starling’s RBI single through the left side of the infield scored Dozier to tie the game 1-1. Lopez, the next batter, singled through the right side of the infield and gave the Royals their first lead as Soler came around to score.

Cuthbert added a two-run single in the sixth inning with the bases loaded. He’s now collected 20 RBIs in 34 games since coming up from Class AAA Omaha on May 31.

After giving up the second-inning run, Keller retired 18 consecutive Tigers batters.

“He was constantly on the attack, always ahead in the count,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Keller.

“I think he retired 18 straight at one time and no walks. ... He was going on his way to a complete game and then the pitch count got up. But then he was one hitter away from coming out (in the eighth) because you got you’re pitcher throwing that well and you’re not going to put him in a spot to lose the game. Great job of pitching.”

Royals closer Ian Kennedy retired all three batters he faced in the ninth and picked up his 13th save (on 16 chances) of the season.

Royals 4, Tigers 1

Detroit

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Reyes cf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.265

Castellanos rf

4

0

0

0

0

0

.279

Cabrera dh

4

0

0

0

0

1

.298

Stewart lf

4

0

0

0

0

3

.233

Dixon 1b

3

1

1

0

0

1

.245

Candelario 3b

3

0

0

0

0

1

.212

Castro 2b

3

0

1

1

0

0

.295

Wilson c

2

0

0

0

0

0

.133

Hicks ph-c

1

0

1

0

0

0

.199

Mercer ss

3

0

1

0

0

1

.188

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield rf

3

1

2

0

1

1

.309

Mondesi ss

3

0

0

0

0

2

.265

Gordon lf

3

1

1

0

1

1

.275

Dozier 3b

4

1

1

0

0

1

.277

Soler dh

2

1

1

0

2

0

.244

Hamilton pr-dh

0

0

0

0

0

0

.217

Cuthbert 1b

4

0

1

2

0

1

.286

Starling cf

3

0

1

1

0

1

.167

Lopez 2b

3

0

1

1

0

1

.240

Maldonado c

3

0

0

0

0

2

.224

Detroit

010

000

000

1

4

0

Kansas City

000

022

00x

4

8

0

LOB—Detroit 3, Kansas City 5. 2B—Dozier (16). 3B—Castro (3). RBIs—Castro (10), Cuthbert 2 (20), Starling (1), Lopez (9). S—Mondesi.

Runners left in scoring position—Detroit 2 (Reyes, Wilson); Kansas City 1 (Starling). RISP—Detroit 0 for 2; Kansas City 3 for 8.

Runners moved up—Cuthbert. GIDP—Gordon, Cuthbert, Maldonado.

DP—Detroit 3 (Candelario, Mercer, Dixon), (Candelario, Castro, Dixon), (Candelario, Castro, Dixon).

Detroit

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Boyd, L, 6-7

7

6

4

4

4

10

109

3.95

J.Jimenez

1

2

0

0

0

0

13

4.67

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Keller, W, 5-9

8

4

1

1

0

7

104

4.25

Kennedy, S, 13-16

1

0

0

0

0

1

12

3.41

Umpires—Home, Adrian Johnson; First, Quinn Wolcott; Second, Gary Cederstrom; Third, Marvin Hudson.

T—2:23. A—27,551 (37,903).

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

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.
  Comments