Whatever worries the Royals had regarding right-hander Brad Keller evaporated for most of Friday night. Keller produced his best outing of the season, pitching six strong innings, but Kansas City lost to the White Sox, 3-0, at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals (16-15), who have lost six in a row, loaded the bases in the ninth against closer Liam Hendriks, who got Nicky Lopez to fly out to end the series opener.
“We have to continue to play the game hard just like [we] did in the end,” manager Mike Matheny said. “But we don’t have nightly meetings, but there are a lot of conversations going on about continuing to trust what we have seen so far and realize that it’s going to get better and continue to show the fight that we showed in the end.”
One could understand why the Royals were concerned about Keller. He was hit hard in his first six starts and entered Friday with an 8.06 ERA. But during the first four innings against the White Sox, Keller was dominating, keeping Chicago hitless and striking out four batters. It helped that the fastball and slider were lethal.
“I was getting into a groove early,” Keller said. “I attacked the zone. I was able to get on the attack early. We made some mechanical adjustments between these last few starts. I felt good in the bullpen and I tried to bring the bullpen out into the game.”
But with one out in the fifth inning, catcher Zack Collins gave the White Sox a 1-0 lead with a monster home run over the center-field wall.
Keller was able to pitch one more inning, but not before the White Sox scored two runs as Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu logged RBI hits in the sixth. Keller said bad pitch selection and location resulted in those runs. He wanted to keep the ball down in the zone, but those pitches ended up in the middle of the plate. But Matheny was pleased by what he saw from Keller.
“He was able to go until the sixth inning and allowed two hits, I thought [Keller’s] had better control,” Matheny said. “Without question, it was the best changeup he had this year. He used it very wisely. The slider had bite. He was in a good spot.”
The Royals must start scoring runs for their pitchers, as they’ve been held scoreless for 22 innings dating to Wednesday against Cleveland.
“We have to figure out how to get [the offense] moving. The few times we had opportunities and we let it slip by,” Matheny said.
White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodón pitched six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and allowed five hits. Three of those hits came from Salvador Perez, who went 4-for-4 in the game.
The Royals had runners in scoring position in the fourth inning with one out, but Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier struck out to end the threat.
“[Rodón] made good pitches. We knew going in that he had a lot of success this year. We didn’t put a lot of pressure on him,” Matheny said. “We didn’t have many chances. … For the most part, he kept us off-balance.”