The Brad Keller we are used to seeing finally showed up in 2021.
Big Picture: The Royals won their second game in a row over the Los Angeles Angels to take the series two games to one. The win prevents the Royals from losing their first series of the year. They have won two series and split the other two.
Notes: The Royals made some roster moves before Wednesday’s game against the Angels. They reinstated RHP Josh Staumont from the injured list just one day after putting him on the list. They optioned RHP Carlos Hernandez to the alternate training site. They also designated OF Nick Heath for assignment.
Keller Starts Strong: Brad Keller got his third start of the season, and it was completely different than the first two. In the first two games, Keller appeared very defensive. He nibbled around the strike zone in those games.
Wednesday was completely different. It was more like what we have seen from Keller before this season. He was aggressive in attacking batters. He was throwing inside to Shohei Ohtani in the first and struck him out. He pitched to Ohtani like he wasn’t afraid of him. That’s how he has to pitch to be successful.
In the third inning, Keller struggled for the first time. He loaded the bases with Mike Trout coming to the plate with just one out. Amazingly, Keller struck out both trout and Jared Walsh to get out of the inning without a run crossing the plate.
Keller then settled down until the sixth. He ended up going 5 2/3 innings and allowed just one run on four hits and a walk to go along with five strikeouts.
This was a huge game for both Keller and the Royals. This game might have turned around Keller’s season, and the Royals might have their number one pitcher back.
You Couldn’t If You Tried: With the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, Michael Taylor hit a hard shot to third that might have knocked in a couple of runners except that the ball hit Carlos Santana for the third out of the inning. It was heartbreaking to lose the opportunity for some runs, but the Royals ended up not needing them.
Royals Are Trout’s Daddy? Ok. Maybe not. But you can’t deny that they handled him in this series. In three games, Royals pitchers struck out Mike Trout six times, including four times on Tuesday. Don’t count on this every time these teams play. Just take it, be happy, and move on.
Perez Is On Fire: Salvador Perez is on fire! He went 8-for-12 against the Angels, including a four-hit game on Monday. Everything is going his way right now. He sees the ball well. Everything he hits is with hard contact. His average is up to .333, with an OPS of 1.036. That contract the Royals signed him to before the season might be paying off already.
Base running Like It Ought To Be: The Royals started the season having difficulties on the bases, but maybe things are starting to turn around. Michael Taylor singled to right to lead off the fourth inning. He proceeded to steal second base, advanced to third on a sacrifice fly to right and then scored on a pop-up just off the infield dirt behind second base.
Taylor took advantage of every opportunity to advance on the bases. The steal was the obvious part of the running game. He got a great jump and was able to steal the base without coming off the bag. Don’t tell Ryan Lefebvre, but it is possible to steal a base and stay on the base.
The advancement to third was a rather standard play on the bases as well. But not everyone takes advantage of opportunities to advance when already in scoring position. But it was the next play that made the tagging up and advancing to third so important.
Cam Gallagher hit a soft liner over second base that was caught just on the outfield grass with second baseman David Fletcher’s momentum taking away from the infield. Michael Taylor read the play perfectly and decided to tag up. It was a great decision because he was able to score on the play.
Michael Taylor advanced around the bases like he was playing for the Royals in the 1980s. He showed the team how to manufacture runs. That’s going to be an important skill for the Royals this season. Regardless of what the analytics preach, running the bases effectively will always increase the odds of scoring.
Staumont and Brentz Earn Matheny’s Trust: Mike Matheny wants to win every game. We know that. But Wednesday’s game was a big one. First, it was the rubber game of a series early in the season. Second, the Royals were trying to win a series against a quality team leading their division early in the season. And the relief pitchers Matheny brought into such an important game says a lot.
When Brad Keller struggled in the sixth with two outs and the bases loaded, Matheny went to rookie Jake Brentz who has yet to allow a run in 2021. Brentz battled Jose Rojas for six pitches and got out of the inning. Brentz has quickly gone from making his major league debut to being an important part of the bullpen because of the strikes he throws.
Matheny put Josh Staumont on the mound with the game close for the next two innings to hold the lead. Staumont allowed just one hit in his two innings. After spending one day on the injured list for reasons not announced but apparently covid related, Staumont dominated.
Next Up: The Toronto Blue Jays come to town on Thursday to start a four game series. Jakob Junis gets the start Thursday for the Royals.
Thanks for reading…
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