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Pirates' Mitch Keller excels in AFL debut

MLB.com - Thursday 12th October, 2017

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The rivalry across the state of Pennsylvania between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, in a variety of sports, is well documented. On Wednesday afternoon, prospects from the Pirates and Phillies worked in unison to give the Glendale Desert Dogs a 5-1 win against the visiting Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League.

Pirates pitching prospect Mitch Keller, the top-ranked pitcher in the Arizona Fall League at No. 18 overall, set the tone early with three very strong innings. The right-hander gave up three hits and one walk in his scoreless outing, striking out four.

Hitters' league, schmitters' league. Mitch Keller, AFL/@Pirates' top-ranked pitching prospect:3 IP0 R3 H1 BB4 Khttps://t.co/TStFcapDxq pic.twitter.com/ZpPLymsvJt

- MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) October 11, 2017

"I was kind of nervous, actually," Keller said about his first AFL outing. "I've never faced this many prospects or this good of a team. Once I got the first out, I kind of settled down and felt really good after that."

That first out was Braves top prospect Ronald Acuna, the No. 5 overall prospect in baseball. Keller quickly got ahead 0-2, then Acuna looked at two balls to even the count. But Keller got the talented center fielder to swing and miss at a fastball, and he was off and running.

"It gives you a bunch of confidence," Keller said. "You always have in the back of your head that this guy is pretty good. Once you get him out, I'm not going to lie, it's a big confidence boost. That helped me settle down a bit. He got me there in the third inning with a base hit. He's a really good player."

The Phillies prospects provided most of the offense for Glendale, though it was White Sox catcher Seby Zavala, serving as the Desert Dogs' designated hitter on Wednesday, who got things going with a one-out single to left against Javelinas starter Max Povse of the Mariners. Phillies third baseman Zach Green took a ball and then turned on the second pitch he saw from the Mariners' No. 9 prospect, depositing it on the berm beyond the left-center field fence to give Glendale a 2-0 lead.

- Gameday

The Desert Dogs added an insurance run in the sixth, and again Phillies did the damage. Cornelius Randolph, the Phillies' No. 12 prospect, reached on a strikeout wild pitch against Mariners right-hander Darin Gillies, who then gave up a single to Zavala. Gillies nearly got out of it by inducing a double-play ball from Green, but a two-out single from Phillies catcher Edgar Cabral brought home Randolph to give Glendale a three-run lead.

That became a five-run cushion in the bottom of the seventh when Randolph doubled in a pair off of Mariners right-hander Matthew Festa. It turned out the Desert Dogs needed every one of those runs because the Javelinas made a late charge with a run in the eighth and three more in the ninth. Red Sox No. 24 prospect Chad De La Guerra got Peoria on the board with a solo inside-the-park home run off of Dodgers lefty Michael Boyle.

The Javs then teed off on White Sox reliever Matt Foster. Red Sox third baseman Michael Chavis (No. 92 prospect in MLB) led off the ninth with a double and is now 4-for-8 over his first two AFL games. He then scored on a one-out single by Blue Jays catcher Max Pentecost. Mariners prospect Eric Filia delivered a run-scoring triple and scored on a sacrifice fly. Red Sox second baseman Josh Tobias singled, but Foster was able to get De La Guerra to end the game on a ground ball to second.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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