Brad Keller has never given Royals manager Ned Yost a reason to question his confidence.
Not when the young right-hander walked into the clubhouse in spring training, freshly acquired from Arizona in the Rule 5 draft. Not when he was thrown into the bullpen after spending most of his career as a starter. And not when Yost moved him back to the rotation in the big leagues.
So when Keller stared down the Los Angeles Angels' potent lineup, and held Mike Trout and Co. to two hits over seven innings, the skipper may have one of the few people in the ballpark unsurprised.
"He was never wide-eyed. Never overwhelmed in any situation we put him in," Yost marveled after the 22-year-old Keller pitched the Royals to a 2-0 win Monday in the makeup of a game frozen out in April.
Keller (2-2) struck out six and walked two in his fifth career major league start. Nobody reached second base on him, one of his two baserunners was wiped out by a double play, and he gamely retired the side in order in the seventh, when his pitch count eclipsed 100 for the first time this season.
"I definitely feel more comfortable with every start," Keller said. "Just try not to let the moment get too big, especially up here. Things tend to snowball up here."
His bullpen made the outstanding start stand up, too.
Kevin McCarthy struck out Chris Young and retired Ian Kinsler to strand a runner on third base in the eighth, and Wily Peralta finished the three-hitter by working around Albert Pujols' single in the ninth.
It was the first save for the longtime starter in 136 career big league games.
"In a game like this, you're not going to hang your hat on one situation. We just didn't do enough offensively," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "On the offensive side it was a tough day for us."
The Royals scored the only run they needed off Tyler Skaggs (6-5) in the fourth. Lucas Duda, who is known primarily for his power, managed to dribble a single through the infield, driving in Hunter Dozier after he reached on a leadoff double on a mild, sun-splashed afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
Rosell Herrera added an RBI single, his career-high third hit of the game, in the eighth inning.
Skaggs, who was scratched from his start last week with right hamstring tightness, allowed seven hits and walked two in seven innings. He struck out eight for the third straight start.
"It's difficult. A quick turnaround," Skaggs said. "A day game yesterday, fly here, kind of another day game – an afternoon game – and another game tomorrow. A lot of travelling and a tough schedule, but nobody's feeling sorry for us."
Indeed, both teams had to fly into Kansas City for the makeup game. The Angels kicked off a road trip that sends them to Boston and Baltimore, and the Royals stopped between series in Houston and Milwaukee.
Not that Yost's bunch minds now. The Royals had lost nine in a row at Kauffman Stadium, and had been outscored 54-17 over the stretch, with their last win coming June 2 against Oakland.
Of their four wins overall in June, three have been shutouts.
Jackie Robinson Day
The Angels and Royals were supposed to wear No. 42 to celebrate Jackie Robinson when their game was frozen out on April 15. So, everybody donned the iconic No. 42 jerseys Monday instead.
"When we were going to do it, it was like, what, 18 degrees here?" Scioscia said. "The guys were really looking forward to it. We're glad we get the chance."
Esky all over
The Royals' Alcides Escobar started at third to give Mike Moustakas a day off. The club wants to give youngster Adalberto Mondesi a long look at shortstop, so Escobar has been moved around a bit. He started in center in Houston last Friday and has a majors-leading streak of 411 consecutive starts.
Angels: RHP Garrett Richards (left hamstring strain) threw off a mound, but Scioscia warned "we'll have to progress from there." ... INF Zack Cozart (left shoulder subluxation) began baseball activities but is still in the evaluation phase. ... INF Jefry Marte (left wrist sprain) is also swinging now. "We've got a whole team back in Southern California," Scioscia deadpanned.
Royals: INF Cheslor Cuthbert remains sidelined with a lower back strain. "He's starting to feel a little better," Yost said, but there is no timetable for his return.
Kansas City returns to the road with right-hander Jakob Junis (5-8, 4.43 ERA) starting the first of two games in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. The Angels begin their scheduled road trip Tuesday night in Boston, where left-hander John Lamb (0-0, 5.40 ERA) starts in the opener of a three-game set.