BALTIMORE (AP) — Amid a dreadful May stretch for Pittsburgh, Mitch Keller provided another reminder of how good the Pirates looked just a few weeks ago.
Keller struck out a career-high 13 in his second straight outstanding start, and the slumping Pirates won for only the second time in 13 games, 4-0 over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
“That might be the best pitching performance of the season. That was a pitching clinic,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s got four or five really plus pitches. We were 0-2 on every at-bat, it felt like.”
The Pirates avoided a sweep after dropping the first two games of the series. Pittsburgh was 20-8 after a 16-1 win at Washington on April 29. Then the Pirates scored just 18 runs in their next 12 games.
They managed four Sunday without a single extra-base hit, and that was plenty the way Keller (5-1) was pitching. The right-hander allowed four hits in seven innings and did not walk a batter.
Keller was also responsible for Pittsburgh's only other win so far in May. In his previous start Monday, he shut out Colorado 4-0 for his first career complete game.
“The last two starts are those rare starts where you have everything working,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said.
Keller pitched more than six innings for only the fifth time in his career, but the third time this season. He struck out Gunnar Henderson, Ryan Mountcastle and Kyle Stowers three times each. Mountcastle also whiffed against reliever Colin Holderman, and Stowers fanned in the ninth against closer David Bednar with two on and nobody out as Baltimore attempted a last-ditch rally.
Keller said he was mostly unaware of how many strikeouts he was chalking up.
“I think it was the sixth inning, I looked up at the board. I threw a pitch and I was trying to see the velo of it and I saw my stat line. It said like 11 or — I don't know how many,” said Keller, who had never struck out more than 10 in a game. “You're in the zone, kind of.”
Kyle Gibson (4-3) allowed four runs, seven hits and three walks in five innings for the Orioles.
Carlos Santana opened the scoring in the first with an RBI grounder, then the Pirates added three runs in the third. Bryan Reynolds, who reached when he struck out on a wild pitch, scored on a single by Ke'Bryan Hayes. Ji Hwan Bae added a two-run single with two outs.
Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, who has played in every game this season, pinch-hit in the ninth and popped out to end the game.
It was the first time the Pirates scored more than three runs since that 16-1 win over the Nationals. ... Keller became the first Pittsburgh pitcher with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks since Gerrit Cole on July 19, 2017, and the first to throw seven or more scoreless innings in back-to-back starts since Charlie Morton in 2015.
The Orioles recalled infielder Joey Ortiz from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned left-hander Nick Vespi to Norfolk. Catcher Luis Torrens cleared outright waivers and elected free agency instead of accepting an assignment to Norfolk.
Orioles: RHPs Mychal Givens (left knee inflammation) and Dillon Tate (right elbow flexor strain) are expected to pitch Tuesday for Norfolk.
The Orioles host a four-game series with the Angels that begins Monday night with a marquee pitching matchup. Shohei Ohtani (4-1) starts for Los Angeles against Baltimore rookie Grayson Rodriguez (2-0).
Pittsburgh is off Monday. The Pirates play at Detroit on Tuesday night, with Luis Ortiz (0-1) taking the mound for Pittsburgh against Michael Lorenzen (1-2).
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