Mitch Keller is reaching ace status
For so long it has appeared that the Pirates were unable to develop a homegrown ace for their starting rotation. Outside of Gerrit Cole’s 2015 season it is hard to pinpoint the last time a homegrown pitcher truly reached ace status for the Pirates.
Well, Mitch Keller is bucking that trend as he ascends to truly pitching at an ace level. In Monday’s series opener Keller did what aces do, he stepped up when his team needed it most. Keller put a foot down and played stopper to end the team’s seven-game losing streak.
Turning in the best start of his professional career, Keller tossed a complete game shutout against the Colorado Rockies. Keller needed just 103 pitches to do so and did not allow a base runner after the 6th inning.
Keller was dominant in his start which continues what has been a spectacular start to the season for the righty. Dating back to May 31st of last season Keller has been one of the best starting pitchers in the National League.
During this 29 start stretch Keller has pitched 170.0 innings, posting a 3.07 ERA and a 3.50 FIP. He’s walked 8.3% of batters faced, struck batters out at a 22.7% clip, and has allowed just 13 home runs (0.69 HR/9). That is top of the rotation, ace level stuff.
Having a true ace is so vital for any team. As we saw in this series, having that goes a long way toward helping to prevent extended losing streaks. There’s a real possibility that the Pirates would currently be on a 10-game losing streak without Keller’s start. Instead, the team is still, somehow, clinging to first place in the National League Central.