Keller delivers as Royals sweep 1st-place Braves

ATLANTA — Having grown up 45 miles northeast of Atlanta in Flowery Branch, Ga., Royals right-hander Brad Keller knew Wednesday’s start against the Braves would come with some pressure. Pitching in front of a large group of friends and family, he delivered.

Keller dominated over seven brilliant innings and he supplied all the offense the Royals needed in 2-0 win at SunTrust Park. Kansas City swept the two-game Interleague series against the National League East leader, while improving to 9-3 since the All-Star break with the club’s second combined shutout in four games. Jake Diekman worked the eighth and closer Ian Kennedy had a 1-2-3 ninth for his 19th save and second in the series.

Three days shy of his 24th birthday, Keller pounded the strike zone on 62 of 88 pitches and he used his signature fastball to get the Braves to roll over and hit the ball on the ground. The Braves only managed four hits against him — all singles in separate innings.

With 13 batters dispatched on three pitches or fewer, Keller’s efficient style allowed him to cruise deep into the game while holding his upper-90s velocity. His four-seam fastball averaged 95.5 mph, which topped his season average (93.3), according to Statcast. If not for having thrown over 104 pitches in each of his previous three starts, Keller might have had a chance to pick up his first career shutout.

Keller’s standout night included his first at-bat at the plate, where he drove in the second run of the game on a two-out single to right in the second inning for his first career RBI. He also drew a five-pitch walk in the fifth — yet another career first.