KANSAS CITY — Brad Keller has flipped the early April script.
Through his first four starts in 2021, Keller struggled. But through his first two starts in 2022, the Royals’ right-hander has been scintillating. Keller made quick work of the Tigers for much of Friday’s outing, but one bad pitch wound up costing him as Kansas City lost 2-1 to Detroit on Spencer Torkelson’s mammoth two-run homer in the seventh inning that wiped out a Royals lead.
After pitching six scoreless innings in his season debut against Cleveland, Keller came right back with a performance that thoroughly impressed manager Mike Matheny.
“Brad was so good,” Matheny said. “Everything that he needed, he had today. It’s a shame.”
Royals fans had visions of a 1-0 victory dancing in their heads when Torkelson stepped to the plate with a runner at second and two outs in the seventh. One more out and Keller would have departed with a 0.00 ERA through two starts. Then it would have been up to the high leverage guys in the Kansas City bullpen to reward him with a win.
But Keller couldn’t put Torkelson away, missing with his location on a night when everything else had gone his way.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” Keller said. “We were trying to go in. The pitch before [to Torkelson], we went in and we wanted to go further in. But it caught too much of the plate, right to his barrel.”
Still, with Zack Greinke at the front of the rotation and Keller off to a flourishing start to the season, Matheny is elated with what he sees in what has been a nice one-two starting punch.
“That was one of the best-pitched games we’ve seen in a long time,” Matheny said. “I keep coming back to [Keller’s] rhythm. He’s trusting his stuff. That’s easy to say, but hard to do. He’s pitching.”
It’s quite a contrast to early April a year ago when Keller had a 12.00 earned run average through four starts. Opponents were hitting .386 against him at that tenuous juncture.
If he can build on what he has done through two starts this year, Keller could cast himself as a true force among American League starters.
“I just want to keep pounding the zone,” Keller said. “Our defense is unbelievable. The key is getting early contact and early outs.”