The Glendale Desert Dogs need to go on a run over the final six games of the AFL season to get a playoff spot. They tried to start the run on Friday with Mitch Keller on the mound, making his first start since the Fall-Stars game over the weekend. Mitchell Tolman was the only Pittsburgh Pirate hitter in the lineup against Scottsdale, as Glendale won 3-1 and Keller had a terrific outing.
Keller’s last start was his five-inning performance last Monday in which he faced the minimum. That got his named as the AFL Pitcher of the Week. He did not start off well on this day, as he needed 22 pitches to get through the first inning. He started with an eight-pitch walk, followed by ground out in front of the plate, a strikeout and a grounder to third base. Kyle Glaser from Baseball America had him sitting 93-95, hitting 97 MPH.
The second inning started off with a grounder to first base. That was followed by a line drive single, then three pitches later, Keller got out of the inning on a double play grounder to shortstop. Keller needed just nine pitches this frame, with six going for strikes.
In the third, Keller got a fly out to left field on his first pitch. He then had a seven-pitch at-bat, which ended on a fly ball to center field. That was followed by a strikeout swinging on three pitches. Even with the long at-bat, it took Keller just 11 pitches to get through the inning.
Keller started the fourth inning with a ground out to shortstop. Two pitches later, he got a grounder to first base for the second out. He couldn’t get through the inning clean, allowing a line drive single up the middle. The next batter lined a ball to center field as well, but it was caught for the final out. Keller was at 55 pitches, with 41 going for strikes. That pitch count ended his day. He threw four shutout innings, allowing two singles and a walk, while striking out two batters. He now has a 1.37 ERA this fall through 19.2 innings, with a .152 BAA.
Mitchell Tolman came into the game with a .152 average and a .525 OPS through 13 games. He had a chance to drive in a run in the bottom of the second with one out and a man on third base. Tolman grounded out sharply to second base, which was hit too hard to bring home the run and resulted in an out at first base. He singled with one out in the fourth inning, then walked in the sixth. He flew out to left field to end the eighth inning, leaving him 1-for-3 with a walk.