Cardinals get to Royals ace Brad Keller, take first game of I-70 series in St. Louis

Brad Keller's run couldn't last forever, and the Kansas City Royals right-hander gave up his first runs of the season to the in-state rivals from the National League.


Keller hadn't given up a run this season, but the St. Louis Cardinals scored one in the first inning and five in the fifth to deal the Royals a 9-3 loss at Busch Stadium to open a three-game series.


The Royals (11-18) have now lost three in a row.


Keller (3-1) gave up five runs on six hits, three walks and a hit batter in four innings. He pitched into the fifth but did not record an out. He struck out four, including three in the fourth, but the Cardinals had men on base in all but one of his innings.


"In four of those five (innings) he really had his back up against the wall, which put him in a compromised spot the deeper you go into a game like that," Royals manager Mike Matheny said of Keller.


The game also served as the first regular-season game back in St. Louis for Matheny, in his first season as the Royals' manager. Matheny managed the Cardinals from 2012-18 and played for the franchise from 2000-04.


The Royals played the last of their three exhibition games against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on July 22.


Jorge Soler went 2 for 4, hit his team-leading seventh home run and registered three RBIs. Catcher Meibrys Viloria had a double and walked.


Viloria's double marked the lone hit allowed by Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty (2-0). Flaherty has not lost in six consecutive starts.


"Soler had a good day, capitalized on a mistake for them with the error, getting guys on base," Matheny said. "Getting a little something going to where Jorge could put us on the board and get us within striking distance, within three and try to make something against their pen. Their starter was very good."


Keller had not lost in a National League ballpark in seven previous starts. He was coming off of a dominant start at home against the Cincinnati Reds in last week's doubleheader.


Keller's streak of scoreless innings to start this season was 17 2/3 entering the game. Keller gave up a run in the first inning without allowing a hit. Two walks and a hit batter set up a Paul DeJong sacrifice fly to drive in the first run against Keller this season.


"I obviously didn't have my best stuff today and my command was really spotty," Keller said. "I just grinded. It seemed like every single pitch, every single (at-bat) was a battle. They fought off a lot of pitches. Pitch count got super high pretty quickly, especially after the first inning where I basically put on bases loaded. Trying to wiggle out of that without my best command was pretty tough, set me back some pitches and kind of set the tone for the rest of the game."


Keller, who had trouble keeping the ball down in the strike zone, held the Cardinals (10-8) to one run going into the fifth inning. But he didn't record an out in the fifth before being removed in favor of reliever Greg Holland.


Keller gave up three consecutive hits to start the fifth, including an infield single back up the middle that deflected off of his glove to score a run. He walked the last batter he faced, Matt Carpenter, before Holland took over.


"I'm thinking double play the whole time, and I get a ground ball," Keller said. "Especially right back at me. I'm like this is perfect. It was hit just hard enough to get by me. I got a glove on it. You turn around and see (Adalberto Mondesi) standing right there. It's got to be the most frustrating thing ever."


Holland gave up a pair of two-run doubles with a hit batter sandwiched between as the first rive batters of the inning reached and scored as the Cardinals enjoyed a five-run fifth to take a 6-0 lead. The first four runs of the inning were charged to Keller.


Flaherty handed the game over to the bullpen after holding the Royals to one hit in five innings. Soler's three-run homer gave the Royals life in the sixth and temporarily cut their deficit in half.


Reliever Chance Adams, who made his Royals debut, allowed three runs in 1 2/3 innings as the Cardinals pushed their lead back to six runs.