INDIANAPOLIS – On Thursday night, Mitch Keller showed flashes of why he is the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ top prospect.
The right-hander struck out a season-high ten batters over six innings pitched, but the Louisville Bats (34-48) got to him for five runs on six hits and four walks. Keller took his first loss at the Triple-A level, as the Indianapolis Indians (45-39) were defeated by a final score of 5-2.
Keller was rocked for eight runs on ten hits in his Triple-A debut on June 30. The 22-year-old was better for his Victory Field debut on Thursday, but still wasn’t as sharp as he was down in Double-A (9-2, 2.72 ERA).
Louisville didn’t waste much time versus Keller, seizing a 1-0 edge in the first inning. Phillip Ervin took Keller deep on the first pitch he saw, lifting a one-out solo shot over the left field wall.
Keller struck out two in a perfect second inning, but the Bats went off for four runs in the third.
Blake Trahan led off with a double, but was in danger of being stranded on third base after Keller recorded consecutive outs. Ervin came through again, however, keeping the frame alive and making it 2-0 with a RBI single. Keller followed by walking Hernan Iribarren, which turned out to hurt badly. Gabriel Guerrero and D.J. Peterson each doubled after the walk, extending Louisville’s lead to 5-0.
Keller was able to settle down following the four-run third and eat up some innings for Indy. He issued two walks and gave up a single in his final three frames, but kept the Bats from scoring again.
The final line for Keller read: six innings pitched, six hits, five earned runs, four walks and ten strikeouts.
Unfortunately for Keller and the Tribe, Louisville’s starting pitcher had a better looking line.
Robert Stephenson toed the rubber for the Bats and had the Indians out of sorts all night long. The righty tossed six scoreless innings, limiting the home team to just two hits and a walk. Indy’s first hit didn’t come until the bottom of the fifth. And in a game in which Keller struck out ten, Stephenson was able to one-up him by punching out 12 Indianapolis batters.
The Tribe did get some relief once Stephenson left the game, scoring two runs in the seventh against new Bats hurler Wandy Peralta. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases before Adam Frazier finally got the Indians on the scoreboard with a two-out, two-run single.
But that would be it for Indianapolis. Kevin Kramer and Jason Martin collected singles in the eighth and Frazier reached in the ninth with his third knock of the evening, but Louisville’s bullpen did not break.
The homestand continues for Indy on Friday, as the Columbus Clippers come to town to begin a three-game series. Tyler Eppler (8-3, 3.13 ERA) is penciled in to pitch for the Indians.