KANSAS CITY — On Friday night, Royals rookie and hometown product Bubba Starling made his Major League debut.
On Saturday, Starling, from nearby Gardner, Kan., delivered his first big league hit during a two-run fifth that propelled the Royals to a 4-1 win over the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium.
Starling, with runners on first and third in the fifth, lifted an RBI single to left field off Tigers starter Matthew Boyd that tied the score at 1.
“It’s awesome,” Starling said. “It means a lot. I was talking to [Lucas] Duda, and I was like, ‘When did you get your first hit?’ He said he went through a long stretch before he got his. I was like, man, I hope I don’t get to that point. It was awesome to get that first knock out of the way.”
The Royals also received a brilliant effort from right-hander Brad Keller, who delivered eight strong innings and gave up just four hits and one run. It was probably his most dominant outing since Opening Day, when he threw seven scoreless innings against the White Sox.
“He was constantly on the attack, always ahead in the count,” manager Ned Yost said. “I think he retired 18 straight at one time and no walks. … he was going on his way to a complete game and then the pitch count got up. But then, he was one hitter away from coming out [in the eighth] because you got your pitcher throwing that well, and you’re not going to put him in a spot to lose the game. But great job of pitching.”
Keller walked none and struck out seven, mostly with total command of his slider and a four-seam fastball that regularly hit 95 mph with late life.
“Today, me and [pitching coach] Cal [Eldred] were just talking in the dugout,” Keller said, “and we were going through some mechanical stuff, and today was probably the best I felt as far as that. Once you’re in your delivery, it’s a lot easier to pump strikes like that. It felt good today.
“My slider command was there, whenever I wanted it below the zone or for a strike, and I was able to locate my fastball today so that was huge. And I mixed in some changeups, too, which is awesome.”
Keller’s effort wasn’t overlooked by his position players, either.
“He was pounding the zone all night,” Starling said. “He did an unbelievable job. It makes it easy on us position players. We don’t have to do too much out there. So, hats off to him. He did a great job.”
Starling’s hit wasn’t exactly scalded — it went just 68 mph per Statcast — but it triggered the two-run fifth that gave the Royals the lead.
“It got in on me a little bit, but a knock is a knock,” Starling said. “So, I’ll take it.
“I thought our team did a great job. Obviously, Brad threw the ball so good tonight. Just a great win tonight.”
In the sixth, three walks issued by Boyd loaded the bases for Cheslor Cuthbert, who rolled a single through the six-hole to score two runs to make it 4-1.
“Real close pitches on those walks,” Yost said. “Guys did a great job of laying off those pitches. Baserunners are important. The more you get, the more you have a chance to score, obviously.”