KANSAS CITY — For a night at least, the Royals showed off the type of team they want to become again: speedy with a little bit of small ball, elite defense and solid starting pitching. That formula was on display Tuesday in the Royals’ 6-3 win over the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City has now won 10 of its last 11 games at home.
Let’s start with rookie right-hander Brad Keller, who continues to push his name into the conversation for American League Rookie of the Year. Keller tossed seven strong innings, giving up just four hits while walking two and striking out six.
“I don’t really look at that [Rookie of the Year],” Keller said. “It’s cool to be in the talks. But the team winning is what matters. It’s cool but it doesn’t matter much.”
Keller again relied on his four-seam fastball — which moves like a cutter — and his slider to lower his season ERA to 3.04.
“I felt like I didn’t have my best stuff,” Keller said. “But I settled down and gave the team a chance to get the lead and then go deep into the game.”
Speed? Whit Merrifield, the reigning AL stolen base champ, swiped two bags and now leads the league with 33. Adalberto Mondesi stole his 21st base in just 57 games this season.
“We’re trying to take advantage of some athleticism,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We’re younger than we were before the All-Star break. We’re more capable of doing some things. We did them tonight, and it paid off big for us.”
Mondesi also laid down a perfect safety squeeze bunt in the Royals’ three-run third — it scored Rosell Herrera while Mondesi beat an errant throw to first for a hit. Mondesi also beat out an infield hit.
“That’s what we have to do as a team,” Merrifield said. “We have an athletic team that can put pressure on the defense. We saw that [Monday] night with the bunt and the errant throw, saw it again tonight with the bunt and the errant throw. We’ve got athletes that put pressure on the defense. Good things can happen then.”
Defense? Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier made numerous fine plays, and also drove in two runs with a single in the fifth that made it 6-1.
“I’ve been working hard over there,” Dozier said. “That’s one thing I’ve noticed up here is you really have to play good defense even if you’re not swinging it well. It’s something I’m going to work on hard in the offseason.”
Added Yost, “I’m pleased with the progress that he’s made at third base. For me, it’s been a pretty big leap defensively. When we first started putting him over there, he looked uncomfortable, and I think that he would admit that he was a little uncomfortable. His footwork, his hands, his throwing has improved. For me, he’s just making great strides defensively at third base.”