It was over, then it wasn’t, and then it was again.
Brad Keller’s struggles continued on Tuesday night, with the Royals putting up plenty of runs but still losing. The poor fans who went out and froze at Kauffman Stadium deserved better.
The Tampa Bay Rays tagged Brad Keller for five runs in the first two innings, which resulted in Keller getting the hook before the end of the frame. He got five runs and recorded five outs, which is terrible. Three of his four starts this year have been dreadful, and I think it’s too early to slam the panic button down, but my eyebrows are definitely raised. This was, in 2020, one of the best pitchers in baseball at consistently throwing strikes and not giving up a bunch of hard contact. This year, the opposite has been true.
Keller’s final line: 1.2 innings, 5 runs, 3 hits, 3 walks, and one straw strikeout. The ERA is 12.00.
Facing Rich Hill, who entered the game with an ERA over 7.00 himself, the Royals climbed back in it, taking a 5-0 game and making it 5-4 in the home half of the third. Nicky Lopez and Carlos Santana both came through with 2-RBI hits, putting the tying run on second with nobody out, but the meat of the order couldn’t do anything.
After Ervin Santana surrendered two runs, Kansas City once again climbed back from a deficit. Trailing 7-4 in the fifth, Santana homered, Perez walked, and Jorge Soler singled to put two on with one out. They both moved into scoring position, but a popup by Hanser Alberto and a groundout by Andrew Benintendi squashed that scoring chance.
Tampa scored a bunch more runs after that. The Royals got one back in the seventh when Hunter Dozier made yet another out, but at least somebody was on third when he did it this time.
Whit Merrifield and Carlos Santana both had two hits. Santana has heated up quite nicely in the last few games, and the home run he hit in the fifth was his third. But the middle of the order was brutal. Alberto, in particular, left a thousand people on base, and Hunter Dozier continues to not get any hits ever. After going 0 for 3 tonight, he is now 5 for 39 this year, which is an absolutely atrocious .126 batting average.
Pitching was, well, a problem. Tampa scored at least one run in five of the first six innings. Jake Newberry did a good job cleaning up Keller’s mess, but Ervin Santana was rough and Kyle Zimmer got knocked around pretty good in the sixth. Greg Holland walked a .100 hitter in the ninth and then got burned by back-to-back home runs. This is a good lineup that they’re facing, but losing a game where you score seven runs is disappointing. The Rays, in all, drew six walks and had 17 hits. Big yikes.
Hanser Alberto got the last out. As a pitcher. When Greg Holland got rocked and was yanked with two outs in the ninth, Mike Matheny put Alberto on the mound, who needed just two pitches to get an out.
Speaking of position players pitching, do you guys remember when Chris Owings pitched and he was about as bad at that as he was at hitting? Good times.
The defense was also a problem. Keller wasn’t let down by his defense or anything because he wasn’t good, but the Royals’ defense had two more errors in this game. Whit Merrifield’s first-inning error was key in Tampa’s first run, and Andrew Benintendi continued to make us long for Alex Gordon’s defense by letting a single go right under his glove in the sixth. The last two days have not been good for the typically sure-handed defensive unit. Contrary to any excuses the broadcasting crew made for them, they were really bad errors that shouldn’t have occurred. On the flip side, if neither one gets committed, the end result of the game is probably the same.
One more thing: holy moly, the Royals have really, really struggled against Tampa Bay recently, especially at Kauffman. From 2012-2016, Kansas City was 15-1 at home against the Rays. Since 2017, they’re just 3-9 at home against them. Baseball is weird.
The Royals’ streak of “not losing any series this year” is over, and now they’ll try to avoid the sweep tomorrow against Tampa Bay. They’ll throw Mike Minor out there and hope he’s better than he was last time against Toronto. The record is 9-7.