KANSAS CITY — Royals rookie right-hander Brad Keller was jolted by a home run from the second hitter of the game, Devon Travis.
Keller, though, shook that off and pitched his best game in over two months, throwing seven innings of four-hit, one-run ball in the Royals’ 3-1 win over the Blue Jays on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Closer Wily Peralta picked up his seventh save in as many opportunities.
“I thought I made a good pitch [to Travis],” Keller said. “The pitch before, he shattered his bat. I made the same pitch, and he swung his barrel around and got it.
“I think early on, I was falling behind guys. Later on, I was really trying to attack.”
Keller’s last outing that was this dominant was on July 1, when he held the Mariners to one run over eight innings.
Keller walked two and struck out four while improving his record to 5-5. He was helped by some superb defense — left fielder Alex Gordon threw a runner out at the plate, and catcher Salvador Perez threw out a runner trying to steal second base. The Royals also turned a 6-5-3 double play while in an extreme shift.
“[Keller] just did an awesome job,” manager Ned Yost said. “Got better as the game went on.”
Another rookie, designated hitter Ryan O’Hearn, provided the offense. O’Hearn went the opposite way for a two-run home run in the second inning on a first-pitch four-seam fastball from right-hander Sean Reid-Foley, who was making his Major League debut. It was O’Hearn’s second home run — his first came on July 31 during his Major League debut in Chicago.
“That [opposite-field power] is something that’s kind of gotten me here,” O’Hearn said. “I’d like to think I can pull a ball, hit it to center, and go anywhere. That’s definitely something that’s been one of my strengths.”
O’Hearn also drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk, while Whit Merrifield added three hits for the Royals.
“That was a good [plate appearance] for me,” O’Hearn said. “That guy has good stuff. Just to be able to battle through that and kind of get that extra run that we needed at the end there was great. With the bases loaded, less than two outs, it’s always a high-pressure situation so just to kind of be able to relax and just have a quality at-bat is huge for me and my confidence.”