Yanks' Keller in control to earn weekly honor

Thunder starter picks up two victories, fans 15 over 11 2/3 frames

A 39th-round pick in 2016, Brian Keller led all Eastern League pitchers with 15 strikeouts last week. (Terrance Williams/MiLB.com)

By Rob Terranova / MiLB.com | July 30, 2018 5:30 PM

Brian Keller has shown he isn't afraid to pitch to contact but possesses the stuff to miss bats as well. In 17 games this season, Keller has yielded 89 hits over 97 innings; however, he's also whiffed 88 and been able to limit the damage, posting a 3.62 ERA this season, including a 2.43 mark in July.

That knack to bend but not break was on full display over two starts last week as he helped lead Double-A Trenton to victory in a pair of tight games. Those performances are also the reason that the Yankees pitching prospect has been named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week for July 23-29.

The right-hander allowed one run on 13 hits and did not issue a walk while fanning 15 over 11 2/3 frames. It is the second Pitcher of the Week award for the 24-year-old, who received the honor exactly one year ago with Class A Advanced Tampa in the Florida State League.

Video: Keller gets through 8 scoreless for Trenton with K

Keller earned victories when the Thunder defeated Hartford by the score of 1-0 on July 24 and five days later took care of Portland, 4-1. He stranded four runners in scoring position last week, retired the side in order three times and fired a total of 196 pitches -- 128 for strikes. His 15 punchouts led all Eastern League hurlers, and his two victories also tied atop the circuit. The only blemish for Keller last week was a leadoff dinger by Red Sox No. 10 prospect Josh Ockimey that came on a 3-1 fastball in the fourth inning against the Sea Dogs.

Keller credited his defense earlier this season for his confidence to attack the zone.

"I could throw whatever I wanted up, down, in and out, and I knew I had a good defense behind me," he told MiLB.com's Andrew Battifarano after tossing eight scoreless innings on May 18.

View the Offensive Player of the Week winners »

Against the Yard Goats, Keller scattered seven hits and had six punchouts over 5 2/3 scoreless frames. He allowed at least one hit in every inning except the fifth, and after allowing back-to-back hits to start the sixth, he got No. 26 Rockies prospect Brian Mundell to fly out to left and struck out 24th-ranked Roberto Ramos on fives pitches before being removed for lefty Phillip Diehl, who ended the frame by fanning No. 9 prospect Sam Hilliard.

On Sunday, Keller yielded a run on six hits while whiffing a season-high nine over six innings. He sat down the side in order in the third and sixth and finished his outing by retiring the final four batters he faced.

"You've just got to refocus and lock back in and make sure you make some really quality pitches," he told MiLB.com earlier in the season. "It's just to make sure you can keep it rolling, and that's really the key."

Keller went 11-8 with a 3.13 ERA and 1.14 WHIP across the Class A South Atlantic and Florida State leagues last season; he is now 8-7 with an 3.62 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 16 starts and one relief appearance for Trenton.

Below is the complete list of Minor League Pitchers of the Week for July 23-29:

League Player Team MLB Stats
International Robert Stephenson Louisville CIN 1-0, 1.29 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 1 SHO, 14 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 7 BB, 8 K
Pacific Coast Brock Stewart Oklahoma City LAD 0-0, 1.29 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
Eastern Brian Keller Trenton NYY 2-0, 0.77 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 11 2/3 IP, 13 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HBP, 0 BB, 15 K
Southern Trey Supak Biloxi MIL 1-0, 1.38 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 13 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 12 K
Texas Chase De Jong Arkansas SEA 0-1, 1.93 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 14 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 15 K
California Darren McCaughan Modesto SEA 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Carolina Erick Leal Myrtle Beach CHC 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 1 GS, 8 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 K
Florida State Blake Bivens Charlotte TB 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HBP, 1 BB, 5 K
Midwest Jayson McKinley Kane County ARI 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 1 SHO, 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 HBP, 0 BB, 7 K
South Atlantic Trevor Rogers Greensboro MIA 0-0, 1.32 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 13 2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 19 K
New York-Penn Michael Baird State College STL 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Northwest Jose Espada Vancouver TOR 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Appalachian Yerelmy Garcia Burlington KC 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
Pioneer Victor Castaneda Helena MIL 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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