Pittsburgh Pirates: Mitch Keller’s Woes Continue in Loss Against the Royals

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 28: Nicky Lopez #8 of the Kansas City Royals turns a double play in front of Erik Gonzalez #2 of the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second inning at PNC Park on April 28, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 28: Nicky Lopez #8 of the Kansas City Royals turns a double play in front of Erik Gonzalez #2 of the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second inning at PNC Park on April 28, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

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Wednesday night at PNC Park the Pittsburgh Pirates came up short in their efforts to sweep their two-game series against the Kansas City Royals

Early on Wednesday night the Pittsburgh Pirates were forced to play catch-up. Quickly falling behind 3-0 in the 1st inning, and finding themselves in a 6-0 hole, the Pirates were able to claw their way back into the game pulling within a run after the 5th inning.

Despite a strong attempt at a rally, it was not enough for the Pittsburgh Pirates as the Royals picked up a 9-6 victory. With the loss, the Pirates fall back to .500 on the season at 12-12. This loss led to the series ending in a split, putting the Pirates at 4-0-2 in their last 6 series played.

Mitch Keller’s Struggles Continue

After having a solid start last week in Detroit, Mitch Keller was unable to build off of that in his Wednesday night start against Kansas City.

Keller started the game off by getting Whit Merrifield to groundout, and then struck out Salvador Perez for the second out after walking Carlos Santana. However, the downfall would begin after that moment.

Jorge Soler battled for eleven pitches against Keller, and he would send that 11th pitch into the right center field gap to bring home Santana and make it 1-0. That 11th pitch was a poor slider that had zero movement on it and caught far too much of the zone.

That would be followed by an Andrew Benintendi walk and a hard-hit triple off the bat of Hunter Dozier that scored two more to make it 3-0. Keller would finally get out of the inning with a strikeout of Michael A. Taylor but he was taxed with 3 runs on a whopping 47 pitches in the 1st inning.

After a fairly quick 2nd inning the struggles would continue in the top half of the 3rd. Perez doubled to right to start the inning, then Benintendi walked with one out, and then Dozier also walked. Keller was yanked after just 2.1 innings on 83 (!!!) pitches. Yikes.

Of those 83 pitches Keller threw only 6 generated a swing and a miss. His fastball was flat and straight, while his secondary stuff was flat out bad. Red flags continue to pop up time and time again in Keller’s starts.

Scoring Breakdown

Sean Poppen relieved Keller and immediately walked the first batter he faced with the bases loaded to make it 4-0 Royals. The Pittsburgh Pirates were able to turn a double pay to limit the damage.

In the 4th inning the Royals would rattle off four straight singles from Merrifield, Santana, Perez and Soler to make it 6-0. It seemed to be that a blowout was on the horizon and that the Pittsburgh Pirates were on their way to being blown out.

However, Erik González made a heck of a play to get a double play started for the Pittsburgh Pirates and it got them out of another bases loaded jam. González would then get the rally started in the bottom of the 4th when he hit a 2-run BOMB into the left field bleachers to get the Pirates on the board and make it 6-2.

Jacob Stallings followed it up with a home run of his own, but this one was the complete opposite of a bomb. He hit a ball into deep left center field near the notch and it appeared as if MTaylor made a heck of a play to rob Stallings of extra bases or even a homer. However, the ball fell out of his glove as he hit the wall and it landed over the wall for a home run. That weird sequence made it back-to-back jacks for the Buccos and cut the Royal lead to 6-3.

The Buccos kept battlin’ in the 5th after Phillip Evans advanced to second base on an error by Royals shortstop Nicky Lopez. Bryan Reynolds would then rip a single to right field to set up runners at the corners with just one out in the inning. Todd Frazier stepped to the plate looking for his first hit as a Pirate (0-14). He did just that as he slapped a ball into the right center field gap to score both runners and make it a one-run game at 6-5.

Later in the inning, the Pirates were able to work a few walks and load the bases for Kevin Newman. Newman was unable to deliver as he flew out to center to end the threat, but the Bucs were right back in the game.

The Royals would waste little time to get those runs back as they put together a big 6th inning. After a Merrifield single, Santana grounded a ball to Adam Frazier that looked to be a double play ball. Except Frazier’s throw to second hit Merrifield and the Pirates were unable to record an out.

Then Soler and Benintendi would hit back-to-back doubles to ultimately put the game away for good this time as the score was now 9-5. The Pittsburgh Pirates would tally one more run in the 8th on a single from Evans that scored Adam Frazier.

The Positives

It was mainly an ugly game for the Pirates but one major bright spot was that they continued to battle throughout the game. Pirates teams from years past would have seen the score extend even more before it got any closer. This team continues to show how badly they want to succeed.

Kyle Crick looked lights-outs yet again as he retired the side in order in the ninth. His ERA remains at 0.00 and he has only allowed one hit this season.

The Pirates were on the losing end tonight, but they have earned a series split with the Royals. They have still not lost a series since early April in Cincinnati, and this has all been without Ke’Bryan Hayes.

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What’s Next?

The Pittsburgh Pirates will have the day off on Thursday and will open a series with the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night at 6:35 PM EST. JT Brubaker (2.01 ERA, 4.11 FIP) is scheduled to start for the Pirates. The Cardinals are scheduled to counter with fellow righty John Gant (2.25 ERA, 4.03 FIP).