Keller pitched seven strong innings to win for the fourth time in six starts, leading the Kansas City Royals to a 6-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night.
“He kind of struggled with his mechanics a little bit early, but he’s a kid who doesn’t give in,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He comes right at you with good stuff. … He got pitches to get outs when he needed to.”
Keller (8-6) gave up one run and four hits and two walks while striking out six. He is 4-1 with a 1.62 ERA in his last six starts, lowering his ERA to 3.04 — leading all AL rookies.
Yost isn’t quite ready to talk about Keller in the Rookie Of The Year discussion, but it’s not too far from his mind.
“I haven’t paid attention to who his competition will be,” he said. “I’m very proud and pleased with the year that he’s put together. … He’s only going to get better.”
Keller says it’s an honor to be in the discussion of top rookies, but it’s not his focus.
“I don’t really look at that,” Keller said. “I just try to go out and help the team win. It’s just cool to be in the talks, but that doesn’t matter.”
Whit Merrifield had two hits, two RBIs, and scored two runs for the Royals. He also stole two bases to increase his American League lead to 33 steals, including a league-best 12 of third base.
The aggressiveness on the basepaths, especially since the All-Star break, has been key in the Royals starting to play better at home. They have 47 steals in 48 games since the break.
“We have to force the issue at times,” Merrifield said, “be aggressive and good things happen.”
Wily Peralta picked up his 10th save in 10 chances, despite walking two in 1/3 of an inning.
The Royals have won a season-high seven straight at home — and 10 of 11. After starting 11-35 at home before the All-Star break, the Royals are 16-10 since the break. They need to win three of their final nine games to avoid tying the franchise’s worst home record (1998).
Dylan Covey (5-13) allowed six runs — five earned — and six hits in 4 1/3 innings for the White Sox. He walked three and struck out four. He is now 0-6 with a 9.00 ERA in his last six starts. Over his last 11 outings, he’s 1-9 with an 8.59 ERA.
Covey has struggled against the Royals, falling to 0-7 with a 6.37 ERA in nine career starts.
The White Sox scored a run in the third when Avasail Garcia beat out an infield single, scoring Yolmer Sanchez from third. Garcia rolled it sharply to short, but Adalberto Mondesi appeared to take too long to release the throw to first.
Mondesi made up for his gaffe with an RBI single as part of a three-run third for Kansas City. Merrifield blooped a single to short right field, scoring Brian Goodwin. Mondesi followed with a bunt single that scored Rosell Herrera. A bad throw by catcher Welington Castillo sent Merrifield to third. He scored on Alex Gordon’s sacrifice fly to the wall in right.
The Royals added another run in the fourth. Ryan O’Hearn led off with a triple down the right-field line and scored on Jorge Bonifacio’s ground-rule double to make it 4-1.
Hunter Dozier had a two-run single in the sixth to give the Royals a five-run lead.
The White Sox pulled within three in the ninth against Royals relievers, with Tim Anderson driving in Ryan LaMarre with a single and Yoan Moncada scoring Jose Rondon on a bases-loaded walk.
“We had some opportunities early, didn’t cash them in,” Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. “And then, we gave them a little scare here in the ninth.”