But hey, they split the series.
Apparently, I’ve become a prophet in my old age. Here’s what I tweeted before tonight’s game:
The Pirates are set to take another series, this one from the Royals. Difficulty: Mitch Keller. https://t.co/xbTHjMkbz2
— Over .500 Baseball Fan Account (@BucsDugout) April 28, 2021
And Mitch Keller did indeed prove to be difficult. And by difficult, I mean bad. Despite small offensive rallies in the fourth and fifth innings, the Pirates were never able to get out of the hole that Keller dug in his 2.1 innings of “work,” with Kansas City notching a 9-6 win to split this two-game series at PNC Park.
Keller never looked confident, and it seemed like he was throwing the ball everywhere except over the plate. When he wasn’t giving up hits, he was walking guys, five to be exact. The two walks he gave up in the first inning both resulted in runs. The last two walks that came back-to-back in the third inning got him pulled, although Pirates fans were calling for that in the first inning. Considering Keller threw 47 pitches in the first inning, it surprised some when he came back out. We’ve seen, though, that Derek Shelton likes to see if his pitcher can work out of a jam. Obviously, Shelty had seen enough by the third inning.
Was it only yesterday that I wrote about how good the Pirates bullpen was? Sean Poppen came on in relief of Keller … and promptly stunk things up more, giving up another three runs. At least the Pirates showed signs of life in the fourth inning. Erik Gonzales hit an absolute bomb to left center, scoring Todd Frazier, who’d (theme of the evening) walked. The next batter, Jacob Stallings, got his first homer of the year, although “muffed catch by Michael A. Taylor” was more like it.
The fifth inning gave us a glimpse of the new and improved Pirates, a team that inspires belief that it can come back. Phillip Evans reached on a throwing error by Royals shortstop Nicky Lopez, Bryan Reynolds blooped a single. Then it was the Toddfather with the double that scored both and brought the Bucs to within one run. BELIEVE!
Or … not, since like his predecessors Chris Stratton gave up three runs to make it 9-5. The Bucs would add one more run in the eighth when Evans’s single brought Adam Frazier home, but that was it.
As for Keller … his lack of confidence was visible, and Shelton said as much in his postgame presser. Shelton’s philosophy is to get this team to believe they can win consistently, but when your starting pitcher looks like a deer in the headlights, that’s a bit of a hard sell.