ANAHEIM — Brad Keller’s season-long command woes continued on Friday night at Angel Stadium as the Royals dropped the series opener to the Angels, 5-2. Despite that, there were signs of progress from the right-hander.
“He wasn’t yanking the ball as much,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of his starter. “All in all, I thought he did a good job of limiting the damage. Gave us a chance to win the ballgame. We just couldn’t really get much going.”
On a day when recent heavy bullpen usage prompted the Royals to call up long-relief help in the form of Heath Fillmyer, length from the team’s starter was important. Keller lasted 5 2/3 innings, making it four consecutive starts in which he was unable to get through the sixth.
Still, getting as far as Keller did was something of a feat after a laborious second inning, when he threw 30 pitches and issued three of his five walks. Given that his night looked like it might end up being a lot shorter, Keller was glad to be able to get as far into the game as he did.
“As a starter, that’s our job every time, just get as deep into the game as possible, especially with how our bullpen’s been kind of taxed the last few games,” said Keller. “So I definitely tried to get there as deep as I could today.”
Once he got through the second inning, Keller was much more efficient, and he noticed himself feeling better as the outing continued.
“Yeah, for sure,” Keller said when asked if he felt like he improved as the night went on. “After the second inning, I felt back to normal. … I felt able to throw strikes, and got back to who I am.”
Sure enough, while nearly half of the pitches Keller threw in the first two innings were balls, that number dropped to closer to a third over the next 3 2/3 innings. He didn’t do many favors for his overall free pass stats, though. Including Friday, Keller has gone nine straight games — and all but one of his starts this season — with at least three walks issued. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 42/37 on the season, and his 1.14 K-BB percentage is the lowest among all qualified starters, while his 14.3 percent walk rate is the highest in the American League.
Keller admitted his dissatisfaction with those numbers.
“You don’t ever want to put anybody on base,” said Keller. “It just puts us in bad counts and bad situations, and so that stuff is … frustrating.”
Keller may have shown improvement over the course of Friday, but he now faces the challenge of carrying that progress into his next start. Whether he’s able to will be telling.