The last week has been difficult for the still-in-first-place Pittsburgh Pirates. Pittsburgh took a seven-game losing streak into Monday night's series opener with the Colorado Rockies, and they were outscored 44-9 -- 44-9! -- in the seven games. That the Pirates remained in first place speaks more to the futility of the NL Central than some huge early-season cushion.
Pittsburgh's offense did not exactly come alive Monday, though the seven-game losing streak ended thanks to a stellar four-hit shutout by ace righty Mitch Keller (PIT 2, COL 0). Keller walked one and struck out eight, and threw 104 pitches in his first career complete game.
"That's what guys that start Opening Day do," Pirates manager Derek Shelton said after Monday's game (video). "They go out and stop (a losing streak), and he did it with an exclamation mark."
The shutout was not just the first of Keller's career. It was the first nine-inning shutout by a Pirates starter since Jameson Taillon one-hit the Cincinnati Reds on April 8, 2018. Trevor Williams threw a shutout against the Chicago Cubs on July 23, 2018, though that was a rain-shortened six-inning affair.
It flew under the radar, but Keller broke out last season after the Pirates had him scale back on his four-seam fastball and incorporate a sinker. He pitched to a 3.22 ERA in his final 22 starts last year, and following Monday's shutout, Keller is sitting on a 2.72 ERA in eight starts this season.
Monday's win improved the Pirates to 21-15 on the young season. They have a plus-20 run differential despite being outscored 44-9 during the seven-game losing streak,.
Thanks to the magic of the pitch timer, Monday's game was over in a crisp 1:55. Keller joins Sandy Alcantara, Alex Cobb, Gerrit Cole, and Nathan Eovaldi as the only pitchers to throw a nine-inning shutout so far this year.