ATLANTA — Royals right-hander Brad Keller pitched in front of friends and family in his home state and put on a show at the expense of the Atlanta Braves.
The day certainly belonged to the 6-foot-5, 230-pound 23-year-old from Flowery Branch, Ga. Keller, who grew up a Braves fan, pitched seven scoreless innings for the third time this season. He also contributed with the bat.
Keller set the tone as the Royals completed a sweep of their two-game series with the Braves by shutting out their hosts 2-0 in front of an announced 38,865 at SunTrust Park. Keller has now won three consecutive starts and four consecutive decisions.
Bubba Starling went 1 for 4 with a double and a run scored, and Cheslor Cuthbert had two hits for the Royals (39-64). Keller (1 for 2) helped his own cause at the plate. He recorded his first major-league RBI in his first at-bat in the second inning, and he walked in his second plate appearance to reach base in each of his first two plate appearances.
Keller, who went to high school 50 miles from where SunTrust Park now stands, had more than 50 ticket requests and estimated around 100 people were in the park to see him take on the team he rooted for in his youth.
The adrenaline of pitching in front of a cheering section from Flowery Branch showed throughout the night. Keller entered the night averaging 93.3 mph on his fastball this season, but he sat 94-96 most of the night and he touched 98 on a called third strike to Brian McCann to end the fourth inning.
Through the first four innings, he allowed just one fly ball out. The Braves (60-43) had a hard time doing anything but pound the ball into the dirt when they made contact against Keller.
All of the scoring took place in the second inning. After a fielding error on a ball hit by rookie catcher Meibrys Viloria allowed Starling to score the game's first run, Keller's line-drive single into center field drove in Nicky Lopez with two outs in the second inning.
Keller (7-9) allowed four hits, walked one and struck out three as he held the Braves scoreless for seven innings. Of his 88 pitches, 62 were strikes.
Keller might have taken his outing into the eighth inning, but he threw 16 seventh-inning pitches including an 11-pitch at-bat against Nick Markakis that ended in a fielder's choice.
Left-handed reliever Jake Diekman struck out three batters in a scoreless eighth inning. Ian Kennedy pitched a 1-2-3 ninth and struck out two for the save, his 19th of the season and eighth since the All-Star break (the most in the majors in that span).