The Royals swept the four-game series in Detroit and increased their lead in the American League Central to two games over the Chicago White Sox after winning 3-2 on Monday.
Big Picture: The Royals swept a four-game series on the road for the first time this century. They improved to 14-7 with the win. That’s the second-best record in baseball behind just the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Keller Makes Me Nervous: Brad Keller is struggling to start the season, but man, did he battle on Monday. If you just looked at the box score, you might think Keller controlled the game. After all, he allowed just two runs on eight hits and two walks in six innings while striking out four. It wasn’t easy. That’s why I’m here for you.
I started off writing about Keller in the first inning. My initial thought was, “Is Keller broken?” Three hard-hit balls and two walks 8n the first inning looked ugly. He doesn’t look like the Keller we are used to seeing. The second inning was more of the same, with a double and three more hard-hit outs. Frankly, Keller and the Royals were fortunate to be in the game after two innings. In fact, they had not allowed a run!
So that’s how it went for Keller. He got guys out, but he got hit hard. But give him credit. Keller fought through six innings. When most pitchers would have broke and have the floodgates open sometime before he was done, Keller battled and gave Mike Matheny six innings and allowed just two runs.
Keller isn’t fixed yet. He’s still struggling. If you aren’t nervous before his next start, then you aren’t paying attention. But a win helps buy more time. With the Royals now at 14-7, Keller has more time to find the Keller of previous years.
Oh, Nicky, You’re So Fine: What has happened to Nicky Lopez? I’m not sure, but he’s living right. A third-inning triple on a ball that bounced over the first baseman’s head is proof of that.
We know about the defense. His heads-up play in the third to throw out Miguel Cabrera and preserve a 2-1 Royals lead is proof of that. Although, he better improve those throws so Salvador Perez doesn’t land on the injured list. Perez would later leave the game because of the injured thumb on his throwing hand, and he is now listed as day-to-day.
He’s So Smooth: Carlos Santana hit a two-out, two-run home run in the third to give the Royals a 2-0 lead. The home run gave Santana ten runs batted in in nine games. He scored a run and had two runs batted in thanks to a third-inning home run. Santana is really starting to heat up at the plate.
Bullpen For The (Nervous) Win: The question continues to be asked. Who is the closer on this Royals team? I tell people that it’s Josh Staumont. But he’s not a traditional closer. Staumont could be used in the ninth inning, but he has also been used in the eighth inning. So how is a closer used in the eighth inning and another pitcher used in the ninth? Doesn’t that make the other pitcher the closer?
Well, maybe we need to change the name of the position. Staumont is being used to get through the toughest part of the batting order late in the game. Is that the closer? I think so. But maybe we call him the stopper? That’s different than the traditional stopper role in baseball, but who cares? Regardless of what you call it, Josh Staumont is the relief pitcher Mike Matheny is going to late in games against the toughest part of the opponent’s order.
In Monday’s game, Scott Barlow entered the game in the seventh inning after Brad Keller gave the Royals six nervous innings. Barlow proceeded to walk the first two batters with Miguel Cabrera due up third. A few years ago, this would have been all kinds of troubles, but Cabrera is not the player he once was. Instead of Cabrera driving in runs, Barlow struck out Cabrera and also the next two batters to get out of the inning with no harm done.
Then it was Greg Holland’s turn to scare Royals fans. He allowed a lead-off triple before retiring the next three batters and stranding the runner on third.
Josh Staumont pitched the ninth against the top of the order. He wasn’t perfect, but he was good and effective. This time the ninth inning presented the toughest challenge, and the job went to Staumont.
The bullpen wasn’t at its best on Monday. In fact, everyone who pitched made Royals fans a little nervous. But they got through it and beat a bad team. Take the sweep and head on to Pittsburgh.
Next Up: The Royals are in Pittsburg today for the first of two games. Jakob Junis starts for the Royals. He’s going against Tyler Anderson of the Pirates.
Thanks for reading…
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