PITTSBURGH — At a time when his team needed it the most, Mitch Keller had it all working on Monday night at PNC Park.
Keller became the first Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitcher since Jameson Taillon in 2019 to throw a nine-inning complete game shutout.
Keller needed 103 pitches to blank the Colorado Rockies in a lightning-quick one hour and 55 minute game that resulted in a 2-0 victory for the Pirates. The win snapped the Pirates’ seven-game losing streak and gave the club their first win in the month of May.
“That’s what guys who start opening day do. They go out and stop things like that. He stopped (the losing streak) with an exclamation mark,” manager Derek Shelton said after the game.
Keller ended the seventh inning with 88 pitches, making the possibility of a complete game look unlikely. However, it took him just eight pitches to get through the eighth inning. After that, there was never a doubt.
“He was going out for the ninth. I was hoping we would get a couple more runs. David was ready, but his stuff was electric the entire game. I think the fact that he had everything working and the way he ended the eighth, yeah, there was no thought. Not even a conversation,” Shelton said.
The decision paid off. After throwing eight pitches the inning before, it took Keller seven to efficiently work through a spotless ninth.
In the ninth, Keller found himself in an unfamiliar situation and thrived.
“Yeah, I told (David Bender) after I came in here, ‘Damn, man, that’s cool. I feel like you out there.’ It was a really cool thing, just to have the confidence in me. It gave me more confidence to go out there and dominate,” he said.
In Keller’s nine innings, he limited Colorado to just four hits and only issued one free pass. The right-hander struck out eight batters.
Keller’s outstanding outing along with a Rodolfo Castro two-run homer gave the Pirates a big win with a gutsy performance.
“Yeah I mean (it) just gives us confidence, just getting things going back the other way… Just super happy for (Mitch) to be able to achieve that. Yeah, now that it’s over we just gotta get ready for tomorrow and come out striking right away again,” Ke’Bryan Hayes said.
Keller has come a long way since around this time last year. It was in the middle of May that Keller was briefly used out of the bullpen for two appearances before rejoining the rotation.
In Keller’s final 22 starts last season, he posted an impressive 3.22 ERA. Through his first eight starts to begin his 2022 campaign, Keller owns an even better 2.72 mark after his dominating performance on Monday.
Keller is growing into the kind of pitcher everyone thought he was going to be. After going through some serious growing pains to start his career, the 27-year-old is living up to the hype that made him a top prospect as he climbed the ranks of the Pirates’ system.
“I think it just comes with experience and confidence. Just having good game plans going in and feeling confident going into the game,” he said.
Keller has become the ace of the Pirates’ staff and has been instrumental in helping the Pirates get to first place in the division in the early parts of this season.
From being a liability on the mound this time last year, Keller is now someone the Pirates can count on to carry them to a win.