The Minnesota Twins and host Kansas City Royals conclude a three-game series Sunday with both clubs feeling they should be in much better position in the American League Central.
Kansas City answered a nine-game losing skid by winning the first two contests of this series, including a 6-3 victory on Saturday. But for the 12th straight game, a Royals starter failed to pitch past four innings.
Two underachieving Opening Day starters will take the mound for the finale, as Minnesota’s Kenta Maeda (3-3, 5.56 ERA) squares off against Kansas City’s Brad Keller (6-8, 6.67).
The Twins are the two-time defending division champs, and there wasn’t much reason to believe they’d enter July at the bottom of the division. The Royals were not expected to challenge for the division, but some thought a .500 record was possible.
Yet on July 4, Kansas City sits 14 games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox, with Minnesota 15 1/2 games back in the division.
Royals manager Mike Matheny said he has been pleased with his team’s approach this season, though.
“I’m happy to tell you that these guys have been showing up every day like today’s the greatest day we have,” Matheny said Saturday. “Maybe I’m looking at it with rose-colored lenses, but this group hasn’t wavered much.
“When we’d leave at night after some of those games, they felt it heavy. But the next day when they showed up, most of the time you couldn’t tell (what happened the night before). That’s the trait of a good player.”
Keller has dealt with failure most of 2021 after entering the season with a career 3.49 ERA in three seasons. He has not had a scoreless outing and has allowed one run just twice. On Tuesday, Keller permitted six earned runs on 10 hits in five innings of a no-decision against the Boston Red Sox.
Keller wasn’t happy with the result, however he was pleased with keeping the ball on the ground.
“I feel like throughout the night, we got ground balls, whether they were hit to people or not, I kept them on the ground,” Keller said. “Threw in quite a bit for effect and for some contact, but all in all, just did a good job of staying with that mentality of keeping them on the ground.”
Keller split a pair of decisions against the Twins in May. He owns a 3-2 record with a 3.25 ERA in eight career starts versus Minnesota.
Maeda has not struggled quite as much as Keller this season, but he’s only completed six innings on one occasion. His ERA has been above 4.85 since his fourth start of the season.
Maeda surrendered a season high-tying seven earned runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings in a 7-6 setback against the White Sox on Tuesday.
“I definitely did not have my command tonight, and that’s something to be reflected and something to fix the next outing,” Maeda said. “I just have to keep fighting, keep grinding on the mound and hope for the best. Obviously, I’ll be trying my best but things have to start rolling my way as well. I’ll just keep fighting until that happens.”
Maeda won his lone career start against Kansas City after allowing one run on four hits in five innings on July 7, 2017.
–Field Level Media