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Kansas City Royals’ bullpen coughs up lead after Brad Keller’s stellar birthday start

·4 min read

The Chicago White Sox crashed the party and ruined what was Brad Keller’s birthday bash.

For the first seven innings, the Kansas City Royals’ right-hander Keller celebrated turning 26 with a dominant performance against the AL Central Division leaders.

However, the bullpen didn’t enjoy the same success after Keller turned over the game and a two-run lead going into the eighth inning. They allowed four runs in the eighth as the lead disappeared and Keller’s fourth consecutive quality start became inconsequential in the game’s outcome.

The Royals bullpen gave up four runs in a 5-3 loss to the White Sox in front of an announced 14,298 in the second game of a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday night.

The loss snapped a season-high six-game win streak for the Royals (43-56). They’re now 4-7 against the White Sox (60-41) this season.

“I thought his stuff was great,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said of Keller. “He deserved better than that.”

Keller allowed one solo home run and three other hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out four in his fourth consecutive quality start. Royals starters have now had six quality starts in their last seven games.

Keller handed over a 3-1 lead to the bullpen after seven innings, but Royals relief pitchers Jake Brentz and Kyle Zimmer combined to give up four runs in the eighth.

Brentz had a couple pitches get away from him, which helped create an opening for the White Sox. Leury Garcia’s leadoff double put a runner in scoring position, then Brentz hit pinch hitter Adam Engel in the foot on an 0-2 slider.

“He’s in an 0-2 count, so he’s not really struggling that much with command,” Matheny said. “He’s just having trouble putting him away. The double is the double, right there. The hit batter really put us in that deeper bind. Then, obviously, you get into the middle of that order and damage can happen.”

A wild pitch put the tying runs in scoring position. Brentz got two outs on a pair of grounders, the second scored a run from third to make it 3-2. Then Matheny turned to Zimmer.

The Royals intentionally walked last year’s AL MVP Jose Abreu in order to pitch to Eloy Jimenez, who was playing in just his second game after having started the season on the injured list for a torn pectoral tendon.

Zimmer’s 0-1 slider drifted over the inner half of the plate and Jimenez hammered it to left-center field for a game-altering three-run home run. That blast put the White Sox ahead 5-3.

“I was trying to execute a slider down and away,” Zimmer said. “To be honest, it just felt like it slipped out of my hand and sort of gyroed back. I don’t want to make any excuses. It’s just really unfortunate that I felt like that pitch just slipped out and he hit it out, and that cost us the game.”

Andrew Benintendi went 2 for 4 with two runs scored and a double, while Ryan O’Hearn went 1 for 3 with an RBI. Hunter Dozier went 1 for 1 with an RBI, a run scored and a sacrifice fly.

The Royals grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second inning with the help of a White Sox defensive miscue. Jorge Soler, who entered the day coming off of back-to-back two-homer games, walked to start the second. Then Benintendi’s single put runners on first and third.

Dozier’s one-out sacrifice fly scored Soler and allowed Benintendi to advance to second base. With two outs, White Sox right fielder Andrew Vaughn dropped a ball hit by Michael A. Taylor as Benintendi scored the second run of the inning.

In the top of the fourth inning, White Sox designated hitter Gavin Sheets cut that deficit in half with a solo home run to right field. His blast was just the third hit Keller allowed, the only extra-base hit he allowed in the outing.

The Royals pushed their lead back to two runs in the bottom of the fourth after Benintendi doubled and scored on O’Hearn’s RBI single.

Keller, who had never made a starter on his birthday, has now held the White Sox to three runs or fewer in each of his last three starts against the division rivals.

Two of his strikeouts came in the second inning after the White Sox put a runner on third base with one out.

“We know this lineup is tough, we know it’s deep,” Keller said. “So we had to make sure we made quick work of some guys and made sure some guys came up with no one on. (We) just went right after guys, and I think we did a really good job of that.”

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