Since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on July 30, Mitch Keller went 0-3 with a 6.28 ERA in his three starts back in the big leagues.
On a warm Friday night in St. Louis, Keller recorded his best start in his second stint with the Pirates, and arguably his best start of the season.
Since falling to two games under .500 on August 6, the Cardinals have played good baseball, and the Red Birds’ bats have helped during that stretch, averaging 5.3 runs per game. But through five innings against Keller on the night, the Cardinals couldn’t get much of anything going.
In his five innings of shutout baseball, Keller allowed six hits, walked a batter and struck out six on 89 pitches/56 strikes.
The biggest reason for the success on the mound tonight can be summarized in two words – fastball command. Keller, who has done well in his career vs. St. Louis, was hitting Jacob Stallings’ target for most of the night. Keller was hitting the corners more, leaving pitches over the middle of the plate less, and getting a handful of swings that came up empty.
Keller earned his first victory since May 29 vs. Colorado.
Keller…with a K. pic.twitter.com/lIu7g7gHqO
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) August 21, 2021
The Pirates were on the scoreboard first after Jacob Stallings lined a single into center, and Harrison Bader, who made two outstanding plays earlier, misplayed it and the ball went all the way to the wall. Colin Moran scored on the E8 and Stallings wound up at third.
The next batter, Gregory Polanco hit a sacrifice fly to deep left, giving the Pirates a 2-0 lead. He hit another sac fly in the sixth off of left-hander Andrew Miller, giving him two RBIs and extending the Pirates lead to 3-0.
Yoshi Tsutsugo hit his first home run as a Pirate, and first since September 19 of last season, putting the Bucs up 4-0.
That would be more than enough for the bullpen as they shut it down in four innings of relief, giving the Pirates their fifth shutout victory of the season and their first away from PNC Park.
Game two of the three game series is set for tomorrow night. Dillon Peters (0-1, 1.93 ERA) will make his second start of the season. Former Pirate J.A. Happ (7-6, 6.03 ERA) is on the bump for St. Louis. First pitch: 7:15.
Stat of the Game:
- Entering the game tonight, the Pirates were just 3-17 vs. the NL Central in their last 20 attempts. Since August, the Pirates were just 2-11 vs their division foes. The struggles vs the division have been a problem all year, as the Bucs came into tonight’s game just 13-40 (.253) vs. the Central, and are 3-9 vs St. Louis on the season.
- Mitch Keller The Cardinal Killer: After going five scoreless tonight, Mitch Keller now has a career ERA of 0.56 against St. Louis in three starts against them. In total, Keller has pitched 16 innings, allowing just one run on eight hits, six walks while striking out 14 batters. Keller picked up his second career victory at Busch Stadium – the other was July 26 last year.
- Colin Kills ‘Em Too: Colin Moran extended his hitting streak at Busch Stadium to 15 games with a single in the fourth. On the year, Moran is 13 for 35 (.371) with a pair of homers in 10 games against the Cardinals.
- Greg Did His Job: Gregory Polanco drove in a pair of runs tonight on a couple sacrifice flies. It was the first time since August 3 that Polanco drove in a run, and the first time since July 30 that he had a two-RBI game.