Royals looking to bounce back against surging Pirates

MLB

It’s early in the season, but the Kansas City Royals own the best record in the majors. As with all winning teams, the key for manager Mike Matheny and his team is not overlooking an opponent.

“This is a dangerous team,” Matheny said Tuesday about the Pittsburgh Pirates, against whom the Royals will complete a two-game series Wednesday night. “They have an explosive offense that is athletic. You watch them do a lot of little things right. They play hard. They do a lot of things we preach as well.

“I’ve always said Pittsburgh is a hard team to beat on their home field, no matter how well they’re playing. And right now, they’re playing well. We’ve got a great test in front of us.”

The Royals found out how dangerous the Pirates are in the opener Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. The Pirates defeated Kansas City 2-1, handing the Royals their first one-run loss of the season after opening the campaign 6-0 in such games.

Pittsburgh, which is above .500 for the first time since winning its season opener, will send right-hander Mitch Keller to the mound. He’s 1-2 with a 7.16 ERA in four starts. The Royals will counter with left-hander Mike Minor (2-1, 4.64).

Keller has not pitched more than five innings in any of his starts. He’s averaging 80 pitches per start, and control has been the biggest problem.

Keller has walked eight in 16 1/3 innings. In his last outing, a no-decision in Detroit, he had his first start without a walk. He allowed two runs on five hits in five innings.

“Mitch did a really nice job,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said after Keller’s last start. “We’ve talked about steps getting better. No walks today, command of the zone. He gave up the solo home run and then the back-to-back extra base hits. But he really filled up the zone. Much better outing.

“He’s a different cat when he’s in the zone. He continues to work on that, and today was a solid step.”

The Pirates are surging. After opening the season 1-6, they’re 11-5 in their last 16 games.

Minor has been a steady starter for the Royals. He hasn’t had a quality start in his first four outings, but he’s kept the Royals in the game every time. In his last start, also against the Tigers, Minor allowed two runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out nine batters.

“I thought he was very hard to guess along with, because he could use just about any pitch in any count, and he controlled counts,” Matheny said. “It was just a very good, efficient outing,”

Minor was pleased with his outing.

“I thought I was a lot better tonight,” Minor said. “We threw a lot of off-speed at them to see where they’re at, and the curveball worked well and the slider worked early.”

Minor will be making his fourth career start against the Pirates. He’s 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA. Keller has never faced the Royals.

–Field Level Media

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