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Royals’ Brad Keller hopes to end slump vs. Blue Jays

Sportsnaut
Jun 1, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller (56) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is a game of adjustments, but what happens if those adjustments aren’t paying off with results?

Brad Keller (1-6, 4.15 ERA) might find out Tuesday night when he and the Kansas City Royals face the visiting Toronto Blue Jays in the second game of a three-game series. Toronto will send Alek Manoah (6-1, 1.98) to the mound.

The Blue Jays will look to pick up where they left off Monday. They clubbed three home runs en route to a rain-delayed, 8-0 victory. Ross Stripling matched his season high with five innings, and he blanked Kansas City on one hit. Stripling has been used as a starter six times and as a reliever eight times.

Keller has been waiting for the results of his adjustments to come all season in terms of wins and losses. He began the year with a 1.74 ERA through five starts but still only had a 1-2 record. However, Keller has seen his ERA climb after each of his past five starts.

Keller, who is 2-2 with a 5.96 ERA in six career appearances (four starts) against Toronto, remained confident that the positive results will come. In his latest outing, on Wednesday against the Cleveland Guardians, he gave up four runs on six hits and three walks in six innings.

“You just have to trust the process, trust your stuff,” he said Monday. “I feel like the Cleveland start I threw pretty well but I just had some balls go through. I had some two-strike pitches that weren’t executed, but overall I felt pretty good about that start.

“It can be tough to do when you’re not seeing the results. It can be challenging. But I feel like I have to keep trusting. I was getting some weak contact in that last game that found holes. It’s part of the game. They get paid to hit the ball, too. You just have to battle through the tough patches.”

Keller hopes his luck will change against a Blue Jays lineup that ranks third in the American League in batting average (.246) and slugging percentage (.415) and fourth in on-base percentage (.318).

“That’s a good offense,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “It’s a dangerous lineup all the way through.”

Manoah hopes nothing changes. He has completed at least six innings in nine of his 10 starts (he went five in the other), and he did not allow more than two earned runs in any of the first nine. He gave up three runs on six hits in 7 2/3 innings during an 8-3 victory against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

Even so, he sang the same tune as Keller about trusting the process.

“We’re showing a lot of heart,” Manoah said after the win. “There was a lot of chatter early on when the offense was struggling, but that was the game plan. Keep trusting and keep going forward. Now, we’re seeing how good (we) can be.”

Manoah has only faced the Royals once in his career, but it was a start worth emulating on Tuesday. He threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and one walk last July 31 in Toronto.

The Royals have dropped two games in a row and seven of the past eight. The Blue Jays have alternated wins and losses over the past five games.

Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo urged Manoah, like all his pitchers, not to focus on the struggles the Royals are facing currently.

“They could get going at any time,” Montoyo said. “They’re good players. You can’t be concerned about the other team.”

–Field Level Media