Back in the Win Circle: Ventura Tames Rangers in 4-3 Win
The Kansas City Royals coasted through what was a historic August with little difficulty. In the last week, fans reacted as if the sky was falling as the team sputtered with a 2-4 (plus the suspended game) record. As the month of September began, the team viewed Monday night as an opportunity to turn the page and start fresh.
The Cleveland series is history. As painful as it may have been, it was still the only series the Royals have lost since July 20. A three-game set with the Texas Rangers, owners of the worst record in baseball, could possibly prove to be the antidote to Kansas City’s recent offensive struggles.
On Monday night, Yordano Ventura and the Royals didn’t waste the first of these opportunities to get back in their winning ways.
Ventura (11-9) limited the Rangers to three runs, and the back of the bullpen, though tired, nailed down the team’s first victory since Wednesday. The story of the game, though, was the Royals’ ability to finally come through with a handful of big hits.
The root of the team’s problems in the last week had been hitting with runners in scoring position. The Royals were an atrocious 3-27 with RISP in the Cleveland series – and even those numbers are misleading (one of the three was an infield single that didn’t plate a run, while the other two timely hits occurred when the team was trailing late). On Monday in front of a crowd of 21,000, the Royals struck early to get the job done.
Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez ignited a pair of two-out rallies in the first and third innings. For the first, Gordon singled to center, stole second base, and scored on Perez’ double in the right-center gap. The latter of the rallies was much louder – Gordon worked a two-out walk, and Perez followed with a booming two-run home run into the Royals’ bullpen. After falling behind 2-0 in the count, Colby Lewis (9-12) made a mistake by putting a fastball right in the All-Star catcher’s wheelhouse, and Perez pulled it for his 16th homer of the season.
The Royals added a fourth run the next inning when rookie Carlos Peguero roped a double for his first major-league hit. He scored on Mike Moustakas’ opposite field single to give Kansas City a 4-0 lead, and with the way Ventura was pitching, it seemed that four runs would be plenty enough.
After holding Texas to one hit in the first five innings, Ventura surrendered a run on a groundout in the sixth frame, and then unraveled a bit in the seventh. RBI singles by Tomas Telis and Michael Choice brought the Rangers to within 4-3, and Ventura was pulled at this point with one out in the seventh inning. He allowed five hits and four walks in his 6.1 innings. He also struck out seven batters.
Despite starting off the second half with a bit of a rough patch, Ventura has been very efficient in his last six starts – all of which are “quality” starts. Over that time span, opponents are hitting just .199 against him. Ventura’s ERA since August 6 is 2.61. He’s quietly having one of the best rookie seasons in the American League.
Kelvin Herrera entered with the tying run on first with one out, but quickly worked out of the jam after inducing the Rangers’ third double-play of the evening.
Wade Davis was, once again, flawless in the eighth inning, thanks to a series of nifty plays from his defense. Leading off the frame, Elvis Andrus got ahold of a Davis fastball, and for a moment, it appeared that the pitcher’s scoreless streak (now 27 2/3 innings) and homerless streak (0 HR allowed this season) were in jeopardy. Alex Gordon shifted back and made a nice over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track, and two batters later, Adrian Beltre was retired when Moustakas made a fantastic diving stop.
In the ninth, Greg Holland nailed down his MLB-best 41st save just before the skies opened up with a downpour. Despite working a third straight night, Holland retired the Rangers in order with two strikeouts. The three-headed monster of Herrera, Davis and Holland retired all seven hitters they faced.
The Royals kept pace with the Tigers, who thumped the Cleveland Indians 12-1 earlier in the afternoon. Kansas City still leads the AL Central by a half-game. It won’t be surprising if the two teams stay virtually deadlocked until they meet for a huge three-game series next week in Detroit.
It may be just one game, but Royals fans can sleep well tonight knowing that their team is back in the win column. Now, they need to prove that the Cleveland series was an anomaly, knowing that to win the division, they likely can’t afford to put up another clunker like that.
Up next: the Royals will try to win their 11th series of their last 13 tomorrow when Jeremy Guthrie (10-10, 4.43 ERA) takes the ball. The Rangers will counter with left-hander Derek Holland, who will make his season debut after missing the season’s first five months recovering from offseason knee surgery. Holland was the ace of Texas’ staff last season, posting a 10-9 record with a 3.42 ERA. He also led the team with 189 strikeouts in 213 innings.