Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
It was a night to remember for Yordano Ventura, as he pitched a career-high 8 shutout innings for the Royals en route to a 5-0, series-opening victory for the boys in blue. The young flamethrower was simply outstanding against a powerful Orioles lineup, limiting them to 7 hits – all singles – 2 walks, and a hit batter. Nelson Cruz took a 98 MPH fastball off of his elbow in the first inning, which is something he’s probably going to try and avoid in the future. Ventura also struck out 8 opposing batters.
On the offensive side of the ball, Billy Butler had 2 hits, including a double, and 2 RBI. His first hit came in the top of the first inning, scoring Omar Infante on a 3-2 pitch from Ubaldo Jimenez, who took the loss for Baltimore after allowing 4 runs in 6 innings. Butler’s single also moved Eric Hosmer to third, at which point he was driven in by Alex Gordon.
Once Ventura took the hill in the bottom of the first, he had all the run support he would need. He did an excellent job of mixing his pitches, and even more importantly, he was throwing strikes. Of the 113 pitches Ventura delivered, 75 were strikes. Because he was so aggressive in the zone, Ventura was able to retire batters quickly without laboring. His efficiency, combined with the low-stress innings, made sending him back out for the 8th inning – after 96 pitches – an acceptable decision by Ned Yost.
The next round of scoring by the Royals came in the 7th inning. They got it started with a walk by Alcides Escobar, followed by a bunt single from Jarrod Dyson, who now has an OBP of .417. Jimenez threw a wild pitch that allowed the runners to advance, and Nori Aoki brought Escobar home on a single to right field on a 3-0 count. The decision to swing on a 3-0 count while facing a struggling pitcher may not have been the best idea, but it did result in the team’s third run of the night. Infante then knocked in Dyson with a single of his own.
In the top of the 9th, Dyson used his speed to reach on an infield single, and after a single from Aoki, Infante and Hosmer were retired, bringing Butler to the plate. The scuffling designated hitter crushed a pitch to deep right center, bringing Dyson home. In all, the Royals collected 11 hits, 10 of which were singles.
While the offense finally broke out a bit and scored a few runs, this night belonged to Ventura. He was rarely in any kind of trouble, and was still hitting triple digits on the radar gun in the 8th inning. His changeup and curveball befuddled Orioles bats, and he located his fastball extremely well, climbing the ladder on several hitters, including slugger Chris Davis. There wasn’t much the Orioles could do against Ventura’s electric stuff, and to make matters worse for them, Greg Holland came in to close out the game in the 9th.
Holland struck out 2 of the 3 batters he faced, and helped get the Royals back to .500.
Notes: Salvador Perez was the only Royals batter to not collect a hit, and he saw just 7 pitches in 4 plate appearances. Former Royal David Lough had a bit of a rough night against his old squad, striking out in 3 of his 4 plate appearances.