Keller pounded by Baysox
The last time Mitch Keller faced Bowie, he pitched the best game in Curve history.
The Baysox got some revenge against the prized prospect Wednesday, however, as Keller endured his roughest start at the Double-A level.
Bowie scored six runs — four earned — and hit Keller hard for 4 1/3 innings in an 8-2 win over the Curve before a packed school kids day crowd of 7,577 at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
“He was just elevated out over the plate, against a good-hitting club,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said. “Behind in counts. I think he might have got away from the game plan a little bit. One of those days.”
The six runs and nine hits Keller allowed were both highs for him in Double-A, to go along with three walks. The only other time he’d allowed four earned runs came, ironically enough, at home against Bowie in the final week of the 2017 regular season. He then dominated that same Baysox team a week later in the playoffs.
Keller (3-2) agreed with his manager that the issues Wednesday really were as simple as falling behind and elevating pitches.
“I was trying to attack, I just wasn’t getting ahead and fell behind, and they were sitting on pitches and I was giving them to them,” Keller said. “That doesn’t equal success right there.”
Keller pitched a one-hit shutout and became the first Curve pitcher ever to face the minimum during a win at Bowie in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs last year. He went on to earn EL Playoff MVP honors as Altoona won the league title.
A few Baysox players from last year’s game were in the lineup Wednesday, including Cedric Mullins, who had the lone hit off Keller that night. Mullins was 1-for-3 off Keller this time around, and 2-for-6 on the day.
“Based off what he did last year, had a great performance, we were able to take that into this year and just kind of have an idea what he might do this time around,” Mullins said. “We just put some good swings on good pitches.
“He fell behind a few counts, and not all of his stuff was locating. As hitters, we just took advantage of it.”
Mullins recalled how dominant Keller was in last year’s gem.
“He was lights out,” Mullins said. “There’s no other way to describe that game. Me being the only hit, he left one ball up, and I was able to hit it right back up the middle.”
Keller said after Wednesday’s tough outing that he plans to go back and watch last year’s playoff start against Bowie “just to try to get some confidence back.”
“That was probably the best game I’ve ever pitched, just down in the zone and everything was working,” he said. “Looking back on that one, that’s really awesome and helps you go forward after a bad outing.”
Keller had trouble from the outset Wednesday. Bowie put runners on second and third with two outs in the first inning, although the pitcher was able to escape that jam. He then gave up a solo homer to former Curve player Anderson Feliz in the second inning.
A single and a walk, then a two-run double by Aderlin Rodriguez gave Bowie a 3-0 lead in the third. Mike Yastrzemski, who went 4-for-4, doubled to start the fourth and came home on a single by Adrian Marin. The Baysox added two more runs in the fifth for a 6-2 lead and chased Keller with two outs.
Bowie starter Hunter Harvey (1-1) gave up two runs on five hits over five innings for the win, while Michael Kelly earned an unusual four-inning save, his first.
The game started at 10:30 a.m., but Keller said that wasn’t an issue at all.
“It’s early, but once you’re out there, you don’t know what time it is,” he said. “Your body feels the same every time, no matter if it’s 10:30, midnight or whatever. It doesn’t affect anything.”
As for his rare rough outing, Keller knows he can learn a lot from it.
“You definitely learn more from when you fail,” he said. “I’ve just got to use what I learned today and just kind of bring it back and work on some things.”
“There’s a lot of lessons learned when you fail or a start doesn’t go your way,” Ryan said. “Could be a good thing for him. We know how he’s going to bounce back, and it’s how you deal with it. He’ll be fine.”
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: CF Mike Yastrzemski, always a Curve killer, went 4-for-4 for Bowie.
Key play: 3B Aderlin Rodriguez hit a two-run double for a 3-0 Baysox lead in the third.
Key stat: RHP Mitch Keller allowed the most runs (6) and hits (9) of his Double-A tenure. Only four of the runs were earned.
SUBHD: How they scored
Top 2nd: Feliz solo homer (0-1).
Top 3rd: Hays singled, Rifaela walked, both scored on Rodriguez double (0-3).
Top 4th: Yastrzemski doubled, scored on Marin single (0-4).
Bottom 4th: Martin singled, Craig hit by pitch, both scored on Hill single (2-4).
Top 5th: Rifaela reached on Tucker error, scored on Yastrzemski double (2-5); Feliz singled, scored on Cervenka sacrifice fly (2-6).
Top 7th: Yastrzemski walked, scored on Marin single (2-7).
Top 8th: Hays reached on Tucker error, scored on Rifaela double (2-8).
Tonight: Altoona at Reading, 6:45 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve LHP Taylor Hearn (0-3, 5.81) vs. Fightin Phils RHP Franklyn Kilome (1-0, 4.98)
Covering the bases: Page B2