KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Dallas Keuchel’s slider hung over the middle of the plate, and in a split second he was ducking a comebacker that whizzed over his head.
With that swing, Adalberto Mondesi erased any notion that Friday could become a steppingstone for Keuchel out of the rut he’s in.
In the White Sox’ 7-2 loss at Kansas City on Friday, Keuchel left the game one batter into the fourth inning, after allowing six runs (five earned). The southpaw was coming off the shortest start of his career, and the couple innings more that he pitched Friday were hardly any consolation.
“He’s searching,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “He makes some good ones, and then he misses. … He’s searching, and I know he’s not going to quit.”
With both Lucas Giolito (left hamstring strain) and Lance Lynn (right knee inflammation) on the IL for at least their next starts, Keuchel’s outings have even more bearing on the White Sox’ September push. But he’s still trying to find the feel for his two-seam fastball, a pitch he thrived on last year, getting ground balls when he located it low and outside to right-handers and in on lefties.
“Whereas, I’m missing not too far, but it’s not competitive out of my hand,” Keuchel said after Friday’s loss. “So, it’s almost like I’m walking up there 1-0 on certain hitters, and then certain guys I’m just able to be myself and get out in 1, 2, 3 pitches. So, it’s there at times, and sometimes it’s not. That’s the most frustrating part, going into these games, the work I’m doing in between is pretty normal.”
Keuchel has allowed six runs in each of his past three starts.
“Off the top of my head I can’t remember a three-start stretch that’s been this bad,” he said, thinking back on his career. “But I’ve been anywhere from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs and everywhere in between. So, I’m not the guy that complains or that gets hit around and makes excuses. I need to pitch better, I need to be more competitive, I need to make more competitive pitches consistently.”
Keuchel didn’t step on the mound until well past 9 p.m. CT Friday. First, a downpour forced a two-hour delay. Then a rules check – the umpires called in to New York to make sure Keuchel could use his own MLB-approved rosin bag – further pushed back Keuchel’s first pitch of the night.
Keuchel’s first inning on the mound, however, was his best. The left-hander tossed a one-two-three frame.
"I wish it would've gone better,” he said of the outing. “I felt really good in the first and it just didn't really carry over to the second. Just trying too hard and it just kind of backfired on me. I've putting myself in holes that I shouldn't be doing or I haven't done in the past. It's self-imposed.”
The Royals did the most damage against Keuchel in the third inning. They loaded the bases with a walk and back-to-back singles. Keuchel bore down to strike out Carlos Santana after falling behind in the count 3-0.
Then, with two outs, Mondesi worked a deep count and hit a line drive into center field. Two runs scored on the hit, and as center fielder Luis Robert mishandled the ball in the slick grass, a third run crossed the plate. With that, the Royals took a 5-0 lead.
The next inning, Royals outfielder Andrew Benintendi would hit a double on another hung slider, after Keuchel started him out with two strikes. White Sox manager Tony La Russa pulled Keuchel then.
“You know what he’s capable of doing,” La Russa said. “If quit on a hitter or pitcher every time he struggles a little bit … everybody struggles in this game at one point.”
With each start, however, Keuchel has fewer chances to make his case to join the playoff rotation, even with his impressive credentials.