For the second time this season, and just the third time in the 54-year franchise history — the Kansas City Royals fielded a starting lineup (including the starting pitcher) consisting of homegrown players Friday night.
With much of the starting rotation drafted and signed by the team, there’s a strong possibility of that happening more frequently.
And while it won’t occur on Sunday, the future is looking up for the Royals, who will complete a four-game series with the visiting Boston Red Sox.
Right-hander Brad Keller (5-12, 4.61 ERA) will take the mound for the Royals, while Kutter Crawford (3-3, 3.86) will start for the Red Sox. The Royals will claim the series with a victory.
Rookie Nick Pratto hit a walk-off home run with two outs in the ninth to give the Royals a 5-4 victory Saturday night. The Royals led three times, but Boston kept responding to tie it. Pratto’s first career walk-off hit left no time for Boston to come back again, however.
According to FanGraph, Kansas City’s 17 homegrown players are the most in the majors, four more than Cleveland and Colorado with 13. Nine of the 10 Royals players in Saturday’s lineup were homegrown. The only exception was center fielder Michael A. Taylor, who was drafted by Washington in 2009.
Previously in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system, Keller came out of the Rule 5 draft before the 2018 season. He had an outstanding rookie campaign in 2018, finishing 9-6, but he’s struggled in three of the four seasons since.
Early this season, he had trouble finding the strike zone, falling to 2-9 after 14 starts. Once the calendar turned to July, he seemed to find some answers and won his next three starts. But he’s lost his past three, including allowing a season-high eight runs on 13 hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday.
“I felt like we had a really good game plan,” Keller said after his outing in Chicago. “I felt like I went after a lot of guys. I felt like I was ahead a lot, and they just kept getting hits. I felt I executed pretty well. Obviously, you’re going to have some pitches throughout a game that you don’t quite execute down and away or inside.
“But for the most part, I felt like I kept the ball on the ground, and it just kept finding holes. It’s frustrating. It’s a tough one to swallow.”
Keller is 0-1 with a lofty 8.10 ERA in five career appearances (three starts) against the Red Sox.
Crawford, who throws a cutter about 30 percent of the time, will face the Royals for the first time. He made his major-league debut last September with a two-inning outing (five runs allowed) against Cleveland.
He’s alternated losses and wins in 2022. He matched his season high with six innings in his Tuesday outing in Houston. He allowed just one run on seven hits to earn the win.
“He was really good,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said on NESN’s postgame coverage. “They came out swinging, as they always do, but he was able to slow it down and make some pitches, start mixing up pitches. Today we needed him to go deeper, and he was really good. He’s been outstanding for us.”
–Field Level Media