If the goal for the 2019 Royals season was to see the emergence of young cornerstones for the franchise, the season opener could not have been a better start for the pitcher and the position player carrying the team’s highest hopes.
The hardy Royals fans who stuck out the entirety of a 106-minute rain delay on Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium were rewarded by witnessing a brilliant pitching performance from Brad Keller and a pair of triples by Adalberto Mondesi in a 5-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Keller stifled the Pale Hose, holding them scoreless on two measly singles over seven innings of work. The second-year right-hander, last year’s Royals Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year, struck out five and walked just one and needed just 92 pitches to complete his seven frames.
“He was outstanding,” said Royals manager Ned Yost of his starting pitcher. “You can’t ask for a better Opening Day start than what we got in him today.”
Ian Kennedy worked a scoreless eighth and Brad Boxberger recorded the final out for the save after three other Royals relievers had combined to give up three runs in the ninth,
Mondesi’s first triple was initially ruled an out when he was called out at third on a tag to lead off the fourth inning, but replay review overturned the call and Mondesi came trotting home on Alex Gordon’s sacrifice fly to deep right field one batter later. The three-bagger was Kansas City’s first hit of the game after White Sox starter Carlos Rodon had sailed through the first three innings.
Rodon ran into more trouble in the sixth, and the Royals struck for two runs. Jorge Soler’s sharp single to left scored Whit Merrifield after Merrifield had singled and then stolen second and third. Then Frank Schwindel’s hard groundball was misplayed by second baseman Yolmer Sanchez for an error, scoring Gordon, who had been hit by a pitch.
More fireworks came in the second in the form of Mondesi’s second triple, which cleaved the gap in right-center and scored Merrifield from first after he had walked with one out. With that, Mondesi became only the second Royal to hit two triples on Opening Day, with Tony Pena Jr. having accomplished the feat in 2007. Mondesi was thrown out trying to score on Gordon’s ground ball to third, but Soler brought Gordon home with a double to left to push the Royals lead to 5-0.
The White Sox rallied in the ninth. Wily Peralta allowed a single and a walk to start the inning. With one out, he was relieved by Jake Diekman, who walked Yonder Alonso and hit Eloy Jimenez to force in a run. Daniel Palka’s fielder’s choice brought home another run and brought Kevin McCarthy out of the bullpen. He surrendered an RBI single to Tim Anderson and walked pinch-hitter Wellington Castillo to load the bases again. Enter Boxberger, who induced a flyout from Yolmer Sanchez that ended the game.