Pirates (12-12) Fall to Royals Behind a Brutal Keller Outing

Today didn’t go as I planned entirely. I knew my wife was going to a work function tonight at PNC Park, but my plan was to just watch the game and write the story.

My entire focus was on game prep for things to watch, players to key in on, performances that could make a difference and then I got a call to come with her which turned into a boat ride into the stadium and up the Monongahela.

I knew it was a Mitch Keller game tonight, and as happens often to me lately, everyone knew, “Gary’s the Pirates Guy”. So when you’re that guy, you’re going to get asked what’s gonna happen of course, which is hard to explain to people you’re pretty sure have no clue who’s on the team.

That said, I went on to say Mitch Keller is pitching tonight, you’ll know by the first inning if we have a shot or not in this one.

As if he was listening, the ever mentally fragile Mitch Keller stepped to the mound and quite possibly had his least impressive outing of the young season.

2.1 innings, 3 hits, 5 walks, and 4 earned runs. As bad as that line looks, he looked worse. He threw 47 pitches in the first inning, and this was after retiring the first batter on a routine ground ball to second.

Calls from back in the box started coming my way. “Gary, you were right about Keller”

Now, I know I didn’t predict he’d stink tonight, but what do you say when people important to your wife think you know your stuff? Thing is, anytime he toes the rubber an outcome like this is just as likely as watching him struggle through five.

He simply doesn’t trust his stuff.

You can say he was wild. You can say the Royals were fouling off a ton of balls. You can say whatever you want, but you won’t find out everything from reading the stats.

After 47 pitching to wiggle and shake his way through the first, I saw from my seat, Derek Shelton, Oscar Marin and Jacob Stallings all standing near Keller in the bullpen. Nothing animated. Nobody throwing Gatorade coolers at him. Looked like a good talking to.

He came back out for the second and put up a relatively easy zero.

So I thought to myself, well, a ton of stuff.

First, I thought hey those guys got through to him. Then I thought, why the hell didn’t he listen in the first? Then, why the hell do they have to get through to him inning by inning?

This was his fifth start of the season, and even the one last week that many of us looked to as progress was filled with painfully slow and deliberate dragging of the feet in between each pitch. Overthinking, over pitching, and it’s hard to not be over him if I’m honest.

I don’t think it’s the best course of action to send him down, but I also can’t sit here and tell you it should be off the table entirely. On one hand, there isn’t anything left to learn in the minors on the other you can’t allow one kid who can’t get out of his own way to hurt the bullpen so much that it damages what this young team is trying to do.

No, the record still doesn’t matter this year, but part of development is making sure when 25 guys are rowing in the right direction you don’t let one turd in the punchbowl spoil everything

I think my first official tweet from the game summed up what I see.

I still believe his stuff plays, but he doesn’t. Mitch is a perfect storm of lack of conviction and control. I honestly don’t think the Pirates will send him down, I’m not hearing rhetoric that would lead me to believe that’s on the horizon in the near term. Honestly I’m not at a point where I’m going to rail for it, but I’m close.

Be careful what you wish for though, especially if you’re someone who thinks the Pirates screwed up Glasnow, because never forcing him to face his demons is what soured that kid for ever finding it in the Burgh.

But enough about Mitch, after all he was only 2.1 innings of this game.

Mike Minor wasn’t all that much better. He only lasted 4.1 innings and surrendered 4 earned.

The Bucs tried to come all the way back in this one and at one point made it 6-5 but Chris Stratton who has been up and down himself this year gave the runs right back.

Bucs fall to the Royals 9-6 at PNC tonight. Off tomorrow, JT Brubaker vs John Gant and the Cardinals on Friday for a 3 game set.

News & Notes

  • Special thanks to my hosts tonight for the invite.
  • Todd Frazier got his first hit tonight and it was a big one a two run double. He took great at bats all night though drawing two walks and seeing 14 pitches in his first two at bats alone.
  • Eric Gonzalez and Jacob Stallings went back to back. Gonzalez hit a fastball 452 feet to left center and Jake crushed a ball 402 to left center that Turner nearly caught before crashing into the wall and dislodging the ball.
  • Phillip Evans looked good tonight racking up two walks and a base hit trying to find his way out of a slump.
  • Eric Gonzalez had another excellent defensive play, scrambling and sliding to his left to pick a ball and start a slick double play.
  • Ka’ai Tom (I guess he likes being called Blaze) made his Pirates debut still wearing Oakland green stirrups and walked. So he’s already better than Alford. Relax it’s a joke. Ok maybe not.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

2 thoughts on “Pirates (12-12) Fall to Royals Behind a Brutal Keller Outing

  1. Since making his MLB debut in 2019 Keller has been a huge disappointment considering how the Pirates have hyped him as an up and coming ace. They did the same for Glasnow and never figured out how to make him the pitcher he could be. They did the same for Kingham and he isn’t even the ace of his Korean team. They couldn’t even get the best Cole had to offer. In the spring this year they told Keller they wanted him to take on a leadership role even though he had not even demonstrated an ability to pitch effectively.

    Keller either gets shelled early on or pitches well enough to last 5 innings before high pitch counts force his exit. Pitchers with great stuff do not routinely run into pitch count problems by the 5th inning. Those pitchers dominate hitters with quick innings and not a lot of walks and hits and 3-2 counts. But in 21 career starts Keller has pitched 6 innings twice, exactly 5 innings 9 times and been shelled in less than 5 innings 10 times. He has never demonstrated an ability to consistently pitch at a higher level than what we’ve seen so far. At best he appears to be someone who can occasionally give you 5 effective innings in between his blowout starts. And that equates to a weak #5 starter if you can’t find anyone better.

    Either Keller has been overhyped by an organization desperate to overcome their deficiency in developing effective pitchers or he has some ability that he can’t demonstrate against MLB batters. Maybe moving him to the bullpen would help. Take the pressure off him that goes with the expectation of an effective outing every 5 days much less being expected to be the leader of the staff. Let him pitch in 1-inning outings from the pen and if effective, give him a 2nd inning. Maybe lowering expectations will relax him and bring out his ability if there’s really any there to bring out. And if he shows he can’t even succeed in a lesser role, then maybe it’s time to cut ties and move on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keller wasn’t just hyped by the Pirates, but was actually a consensus top 10 prospect in all of MLB by independent rankers of talent, however, your point isn’t completely invalid. As far as the bullpen goes, that isn’t a terrible idea as a way to build confidence in smaller situations that can be controlled; as in Shelton can put him in the game in lower pressure situations and against less potent parts of the lineup to give him a supposed advantage.

      Liked by 1 person

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