CLEVELAND — Royals rookie right-hander Brad Keller was very good again on Wednesday afternoon.
But Cleveland’s Corey Kluber was better.
Keller and Kluber locked up in a pitchers’ duel in the series finale at Progressive Field, and the Indians came out victorious, 3-1, in the rubber game. Keller knew going in that he couldn’t make many mistakes.
“You just try to keep your team in the game as much as possible, as long as possible,” Keller said of the matchup. “[Kluber] shut us down. He’s pretty good.”
Keller went seven-plus innings and gave up three runs (one earned), marking his fifth straight start of allowing two earned runs or fewer. On a hot and sticky day — the heat index hovered near 100 — Keller gave up 10 hits but walked only one and struck out five.
“He’s been very impressive,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Keller. “It makes you feel good that you’re going forward with a kid like that with what he brings to the table every five days — a dogged competitiveness, ability to throw strikes, fearless on the mound.”
Keller, who again leaned heavily on his four-seam fastball, pumped the zone with strikes — only 30 of his 99 pitches were balls. Keller, who lowered his ERA to 3.14, threw 80 fastballs and 19 sliders.
“I definitely felt good,” Keller said. “Felt like I had good fastball command and tried to go right after them. I walked that one guy in the first, but after that I just said, ‘[Heck with] it, I’m going right after them.'”
Kluber was even better, going 6 2/3 innings, allowing two hits and one run while striking out 10.
“And both [pitchers] were fantastic, in my estimation,” Yost said. “Kluber, he’s one of the best in this league. Keller was fantastic — I think half of the hits against him were against the shift or bleeders.”
Down 1-0, the Royals tied the game in the fourth when Alex Gordon doubled to left and Ryan O’Hearn tripled — the first three-bagger of his career.
But the Indians notched the go-ahead run in the fifth. Michael Brantley singled with one out and Yandy Diaz reached on shortstop Alcides Escobar’s fielding error, which sent Brantley to third. Brantley then scored on a fielder’s choice from Edwin Encarnacion.
“A lot of topspin,” Yost said of the grounder. “A short-hop with a lot of topspin. Tough play.”