The Royals’ undefeated October is no more. Madison Bumgarner saw to that. Now the Royals’ fortunes hinge on 23-year-old rookie Yordano Ventura.
Under normal circumstances that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Ventura has one of the game’s best fastballs, and on a game-to-game basis, he was every bit the pitcher that James Shields was this year (Ventura had a 3.20 ERA and a 3.60 FIP, Shields had a 3.21 ERA and 3.59 FIP).
Ventura, though, left his last start in Game 2 of the ALCS with shoulder tightness. The Royals had him penciled in for Game 6 anyway, writing it off as a non-issue. However, Ventura didn’t have his usual stuff even before exiting the game against the Orioles. His average fastball was down about three mph, leaving him with his worst velocity of the year. He gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out three.
With the Royals sweeping Baltimore, Ventura essentially got to skip a start; he’ll be facing off against Jake Peavy on 10 days’ rest. If he’s sound physically, his batteries will certainly be recharged. He was able to shake off the big homer he gave up in relief against the A’s in the wild card game to limit the Angels to one run in seven innings during his ALDS start. If he has his high-90s fastball and plus curve, he’s the one Royals starter capable of making Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence look bad .
And that’s what the Royals badly need after burning out their only long reliever Tuesday. Ventura doesn’t have to go seven innings. He doesn’t even have to go six. But he probably will need to hold the Giants to a couple of runs through five in the Royals are going to send the World Series to San Francisco tied a game apiece. If they can’t do that, then they’ll need only return to Kansas City to pack up for the winter.