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Mitch Keller Pitches Gem for Pirates One Day After All-Star Snub

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Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates have two players headed to the 2024 All-Star Game but Mitch Keller will not be returning after the first selection of his career a year ago.

Rookie phenom Paul Skenes was announced as one of the Pirates’ representatives along with Bryan Reynolds, who is headed to the Midsummer Classic for the second time.

Keller has been excellent for the Pirates but entered Monday’s game against the New York Mets with back-to-back subpar outings. Over his last two starts Keller had allowed 10 runs (eight earned) across 10.2 innings.

Perhaps the recent hiccups diminished Keller’s candidacy, but he didn’t seem fazed by any of it in the Pirates’ 8-2 win over the New York Mets at PNC Park.

Despite temperatures around 90 degrees and the sun shining bright over Pittsburgh, Keller worked eight innings and threw 107 pitches. He allowed seven hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out six.

“I thought we had a really good gameplan going in, (catcher Joey Bart) and I,” Keller said on his start. “Just tried to attack the zone and fill it up as much as possible, be on the (aggressive). Good things will happen if you do that.”

It was the second time this year Keller worked at least eight innings and the 49th-straight time he’s gone at least five innings. In addition to the latter being the longest active streak in baseball, his stretch is tied with A.J. Burnett for the second-longest in franchise history.

Because of his durability and his performance over the past two seasons, Keller has been labeled as the staff ace. It helps, too, that the 28-year-old is considered a veteran in a young starting rotation and signed a five-year contract extension in the offseason.

“That’s the leader of a staff,” said manager Derek Shelton. “That’s what a guy that leads a staff, that’s what he does. That’s what a guy that pitches Opening Day does.”

Keller set the tone right out of the gate against New York. The right-hander was efficient and struck out the first three batters he faced.

After that, it was smooth sailing for Keller other than a two-run home run from Brandon Nimmo in the sixth inning.

“Yeah, first innings was, what, 10 pitches? It was really good,” said Shelton. “The second inning was five pitches and he got the double play ball. The execution of everything. Even the pitch to Nimmo was a 3-0 cutter, it just kind of backed up on him. The confidence to be able to go to that pitch at that count and it just flattened out on him. He was outstanding.”

Though he didn’t let it affect him on the mound on Monday afternoon, Keller was understandably disappointed that he wasn’t given a chance to represent the Pirates again during All-Star week.

After a day of disappointment, Keller has already turned the page.

“I mean, it sucks when you don’t get the chance to go, but there’s literally nothing I can do about it,” he said. “Not gonna worry about it.”

Following Monday’s gem, Keller is 10-5 with a 3.40 through 18 starts. He’s logged 111.1 innings and has struck out 102.

Though he’s already moved on, Keller’s manager was a bit more hellbent on what is considered a slight by the Pirates.

“If that’s not an all-star, I’m hard pressed to see what is,” said Shelton.

After a six-game road trip, Keller will get some down time during All-Star week before gearing up for the second half of the season.

Last year, Keller wasn’t quite as sharp after the break as he was leading up to his first nomination. It’s a point of emphasis for Keller to have better results down the stretch this year.

“Yeah, that’s the goal, always, he said. “Just keep riding the wave. Don’t get too high, don’t get too low and just trying to stay steady throughout the year. Last year we had some rough patches there. Obviously want to try to eliminate those this year and just keep going.”

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