KC Royals starter Yordano Ventura will face a stiff test against the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. Not only does Boston have the best offense in baseball, ESPN selected the game as for their national broadcast. The face-off will tax Ventura’s developing ability to control his emotions.
Gifted with a live fastball that averages over 96 mph and a nasty curve, Yordano Ventura possesses ace stuff. He burst on the scene as a 23-year-old rookie in 2014, going 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA. Ventura also pitched the Royals past the Giants in game 6 with Kansas City facing elimination.
"“Ninety-eight [mph], with movement,” Perez said, emphasizing the difference between Ventura’s sinker and those of mere mortals."
He disappointed in 2015 with a 13-8 record and 4.08 ERA. More importantly, he earned a “hot head” reputation after triggering a number of bench clearing brawls. Ventura suffered from similar problems in the first half of the 2016 season, famously throwing at Baltimore Orioles slugger Manny Machado. His ERA ballooned to 5.15 and rumors circulated that the Kansas City Royals wanted to move their troubled young pitcher.
"Eiland told him flatly: Stuff like that just can’t keep happening if you’re going to be what you want to be. And as these conversations about emotion have continued, Eiland and Perez have seen what’s possible with Ventura when he slows down on the mound rather than accelerates, when he channels all that feeling into executing a pitch properly — driving that fastball down and away to right-handed hitters — rather than throwing his fastball through all the doubts anyone has ever had about him."
Yordano Ventura has been terrific in the second half of 2016. Keeping an even keel has allowed Ventura to post a 3-2, 2.65 ERA stat line since the All-Star break. He’s been even better in the month of August, going 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA.
However, on Sunday, he’ll face baseball’s best offense in the Boston Red Sox in offense-happy Fenway Park. He’ll also do so under the spotlight of a national game. Ventura has proved he can handle with spotlight with his game six performance in the 2014 World Series. However, he struggled in the 2015 post-season when manager Ned Yost selected him to start game 1 of the ALDS against Houston. In five playoff starts in 2015, Ventura went 0-2 with 6.42 ERA.
The KC Royals playoff hopes will get a big boost if Ventura can kept calm in the closest thing you will get to a playoff game in the regular season. Sunday night’s match-up pits two contenders in an August game with both fighting for survival.
And, it will also be a measuring stick for Yordano Ventura’s ability to control his competitive fire.