Yordano Ventura's Post-Season Journey from Disappointment to Dominance
On September 30th, things weren't looking too good for Yordano Ventura and the Kansas City Royals. Ventura had just given up a 3-run bomb to put the Oakland Athletics on top, 5-3, in the Wild Card play-in game. Ventura was pulled just two batters later, and the post-season career of the young fire-baller was off to a rocky start.
In just 26 days, Ventura went from the goat to the God for Kansas City, sending his team to a deciding Game 7 with a dominant performance in Game 6 Tuesday night.
Ventura chucked 7 shutout frames, allowing only 3 hits on the night as the Royals defeated the San Francisco Giants 10-0 to stave off elimination. This wasn't a real shocking performance for Ventura, either; his performance took a u-turn following that Wild Card game, showing exactly what he had shown his entire rookie season: the dude can pitch.
Why the Wild Card Game Went Wrong
On the Wild Card post-game coverage, after the Royals had just won in extra-innings on a walk-off, Pedro Martinez was one mad son-of-a-gun. He just railed on Royals manager Ned Yost for bringing Ventura into a game with runners on first and second and no outs. He went so far as to apologize to Ventura (in both English and Spanish, no less) for Yost's placing him in such an awful position. And Pedro was spot-on.
Ventura had only made one relief appearance the entire season. That was in the game before the All-Star Break. Bruce Chen allowed JD Martinez to reach on a single with one out in the sixth, and Yost turned to Ventura. He got two outs and then finished off the seventh and made his exit. Kansas City trailed 2-0 at the time, so this wasn't exactly analogous to the franchise's first post-season game in 29 years.
Ventura's last appearance before the Wild Card game came on the final day of the regular season. He allowed four runs on eight hits over four innings, throwing 73 pitches. This means he was pitching on one day's rest when he got clobbered against the A's.
The one-day rest portion isn't from where the gripe derives. It's about what Pedro said. You're putting the guy in a situation he has only faced once the entire season in the most intense game for the franchise in three decades. Good luck, Yordy! We're all counting on you.
What Ventura Has Done Since
Thankfully, the Royals came back to win that game, meaning (on a selfish level) that we have gotten to see more Ventura, and he has gotten four chances to show the Wild Card game was a fluke. He has done exactly that.
Overall in his four post-season starts, Ventura has gone 25 innings, allowing just 7 runs for a 2.52 ERA. That would be the lowest of any of the Royals starters if you could discount the relief appearance.
Of those 7 runs, 4 came in a single game in the ALCS against Baltimore, when they touched him up over 5.2 innings. This makes sense, as the Orioles were the best fastball hitters in the league during the regular season, according to Fangraphs. Yordano's 97-mile-per-hour heat just didn't look as toasty to them.
The Giants, by comparison, ranked 11th in the league against fastballs. They were also the worst team in the entire league at hitting cutters. Although Ventura featured that pitch only five percent of the time during the regular season, that's enough to make a difference.
In his two World Series starts, Ventura allowed just 2 runs over 12.1 innings. He only had six strikeouts compared to five walks, but he was able to prevent hard contact. Of the balls put in play last night, only seven left the infield, and one of those was a groundball to center field. Overall, he has gotten 22 outs via the groundball versus 17 flyouts. Two of those flyouts were also popouts. There's your dominance, home boy.
This is exactly what we should have expected from Ventura after his regular season. You don't fluke into a 3.20 ERA over 30 starts as a rookie. He was able to move on from an awful result in an awful situation. While I don't think he'd win the series MVP in the event Kansas City wins the World Series, he deserves to be in the discussion. That's how big his Game 6 was and how big he has been to this team the last few weeks.
The Wild Card game had the potential to break a lot of guys mentally. Giving up a 3-run bomb could rattle a veteran, much less a 23-year-old guy in his first season in the league. But the Royals advanced and gave Ventura another chance to prove how sickly he truly is. And now they have a chance to clinch it all Wednesday, thanks in large part to their sensational son.