CHICAGO — With each start, Royals rookie right-hander Brad Keller seems bring something new to the table.
On Thursday afternoon, Keller dominated the White Sox for 6 1/3 innings and finished with a career-high nine strikeouts. Kansas City’s bullpen surrendered a 3-2 lead, giving up four in the eighth inning, and Chicago prevailed, 6-4, at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Keller gave up five hits and three walks, allowing two earned runs.
“He threw the ball extremely well,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I thought he did a phenomenal job to keep us in the game.”
Keller’s four-seamer touched 95 mph. He also used an effective two-seam fastball in holding Chicago to one run through six innings. But Keller seemed to lose his feel in the seventh, walking two before Yost brought in reliever Tim Hill.
“I definitely felt back to where I was [earlier in the season], down in the zone, pounding the zone,” Keller said. “I felt like the sinker was one of my better pitches today. Got a lot of swings and misses on it. Lot of movement.”
Keller got a boost from recently acquired center fielder Brett Phillips, who made two dazzling plays. First, he threw out Leury Garcia trying to tag and score from third on a laser throw measured at 100.1 mph, per Statcast™, after grabbing a fly ball off the bat of Tim Anderson.
“That was a rocket,” Keller said. “I was standing right there and thought, ‘[The runner] is hosed.'”
Added Yost, “[Phillips] showed off his tremendous arm in center. It was really interesting, because I saw the play and thought, ‘Give this a shot. I want to see.’ He played it perfectly. I really like what I see in that kid. He knows what he’s doing out there.”
One inning later, Phillips made a headlong dive and catch while charging on a liner from Yolmer Sanchez. Statcast™ judged that a four-star catch with a 47 percent catch probability.
Whit Merrifield gave Kansas City a 3-2 lead with a three-run pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning, the Royals’ first pinch-hit home run since Aug. 18, 2014 (when Erik Kratz did it).
But Jason Adam gave up a game-tying home run to Jose Abreu in the eighth. Daniel Palka then hit a three-run home run off Jason Hammel later in the inning.