The Royals will send a suddenly hot Brad Keller to the mound as Kansas City looks to claim a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon.
Keller (4-4, 5.72 ERA) will oppose the Twins’ Matt Shoemaker (2-5, 5.48).
The winner of Sunday’s game will take the three-game series after the Twins escaped with a 6-5 victory Saturday. Adalberto Mondesi’s first home run of the season, a two-run shot in the top of the ninth, cut the lead to one run, but the Royals couldn’t score one more.
The Royals have continued to struggle to make contact. They have struck out 56 times in five games on the current road trip. It’s an overall trend in baseball, as the number of strikeouts has increased every season since 2008.
But Kansas City manager Mike Matheny isn’t overly concerned.
“You’re talking about (opposing pitchers) with some big stuff, so you’re going to have strikeouts sometimes,” Matheny said. “We’ve done a better job of (putting the ball in play). The overall strikeouts are high, but that’s a trend in baseball that none of us like. I know I don’t.
“The two-strike approach is something we continue to work on.”
Matheny undoubtedly hopes Keller will have plenty of strikeouts against the Twins. The right-hander has won his past two decisions, posting season highs with seven innings pitched and seven strikeouts in his most recent start, a 2-1 win over the host Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
Keller has lowered his ERA in each of his past six starts.
“Brad was as good as I’ve seen him,” Matheny said. “Just a lot of things done very well, all the way through. That was the kind of start we needed from him.
Keller said the key was his changeup.
“That’s been the biggest issue this year,” Keller said. “I’ve thrown really well in the bullpens, and it’s frustrating because I fix things in my bullpens and it wasn’t translating in the game.
“I feel like these last few starts, I’ve been able to get over the hump. Even sometimes if I get out of whack a little bit, just kind of limit that and get right back on top, and get back to good mechanics and competing, get the ball down,” Keller said.
Shoemaker, also a right-hander, has been consistent, pitching five to six innings in seven of his nine starts. He has lost his past two decisions, but he had his best outing of the season in his most recent start, a no-decision in which he gave up one run on five hits in six innings.
The Twins scored six runs in the eighth for the come-from-behind 8-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles last Monday.
“Guys feed off each other,” Shoemaker said. “Pitchers feed off each other, hitters feed off each other, we all feed off each other. The momentum builds.
“The rhythm is great. The energy is there. And that’s when we go out there and have fun. Everyone’s laughing. Guys were getting hit after hit. It’s a blast. That’s something that we all want to be a part of and keep playing well and winning.”
–Field Level Media