The Kansas City Royals bullpen took a beating during the first month of the season. It was not pretty. Blown leads, close games turned into blowouts, you get the idea.
However, it’s been a different story in May. The pen has looked solid for the Kansas City Royals and that was evident on Friday night against the defending American League Central champion Cleveland Indians.
Jason Hammel got rocked in his start. In fact, the first inning has been shaky for Hammel during his last couple of starts. The righty gave up nine runs in just over three innings. The Royals found themselves in the hole. In April, this game was likely over.
The calendar reads May, and the Royals just aren’t playing that kind of game.
After the smoke cleared, Kansas City found themselves in the win column after the 10-9 comeback in Cleveland. Salvador Perez was the hometown hero with the two-out, two-run homer in the seventh off of lefty standout Andrew Miller.
But Perez wasn’t the only hero to emerge from this battle. Let’s give it up for the Royals bullpen.
Tim Hill, Burch Smith, Brad Keller and Kelvin Herrera kept the Indians off the scoreboard to the tune of 5.1 scoreless innings. Keller caught everyone’s eye with his performance. Three of those scoreless innings belonged to the 22-year-old righty, only allowing two hits while striking out two. All resulting in Keller earning his first major league win.
Keller was one of the very few bright spots for the Royals during the first month of the season and it’s not just bullpen talk. Reaching 95 miles-per-hour with the four-seam fastball, Keller showed he could bring the heat against opposing MLB bats. The key to his success Friday was how both his changeup and slider were working well enough to complement the fastball. He had command of all three, which resulted in a fair share of easy grounders and pop-ups to go along with a couple of strikeouts.
After the game, manager Ned Yost admitted that the plan was to use Keller for only two innings but since his four-seamer had so much life to it, they sent him out for one more.
The stock continues to rise for Keller, who does have the look of a future closer. But that’s for later on down the road. As for the here and now, the young righty is playing an important part in a bullpen that has turned things around as the weather began to warm up.
So what do you think Royals fans? Do you think the bullpen is turning it around? Let us know below!