The Royals lost 1-0 last night in eleven innings and did not use their best relief pitcher. It is a dead horse, long beaten, that managers do not go to their closer in a tie game on the road. What if, (the horror!) you use Wade Davis in the 11th and then score a run (gasp!) in the top of the twelfth. You burned your closer in the 11th and now, here you are, holding a lead in the 12th and no closer in your pen. Whatever will you do?
I don’t know, man. I know the Royals would have played at least one more inning on a Monday night in Chicago than they actually ended up doing last night.
The above is not really a criticism of Ned Yost. Every manager in the league in the last twenty years has pretty much adhered to that strategy and I don’t buy a single argument that supports it. Listen, I am fine with going to Madson in the ninth and even Hochevar in the 10th (although if I was manager, Davis would have pitched the 10th). I could probably even live with Danny Duffy, who pitched just one inning on Sunday, coming out in the 11th to see how he looks working back to back days. Heck, maybe even a Franklin Morales sighting might have been interesting. Seems like a bit of a high pressure situation for a kid who was not on the roster in August and has been long on stuff, low on results in September….with home field advantage throughout the playoffs in jeopardy.
Now, home field advantage really comes down to where Games Six and Seven of the American League Championship Series is played. In that respect, as pointed by Royals Review yesterday, an agony over losing home field advantage is being expended on one sliver of the entire post-season scenario. The Royals will have home field for the divisional series, no matter what. The difference between the team they play with the number one seed versus who they will play versus the number two seed is at most going to be five games, probably less. Should they get there, the Royals will have home field in the World Series as well. It all comes down to the ALCS and, let’s face it, we are talking about the difference between the last two games of a seven game set (if necessary) being in Kaufmann or in Rogers Centre.
It is a very narrow scenario, but I do not think it diminishes the importance of having the advantage. Toronto is a wonderful team since the trade deadline (just ask their fans, they are happy to tell you) and an extremely dangerous squad on their home turf. The 2015 season has long turned from getting to the post-season to winning the World Series. Having home field, even if it all really is the difference between three or four games in Toronto, is important. After last night, the Blue Jays own the number one seed. I want it back.
Speaking of ones and twos, did Yordano Ventura just make himself the ALDS Game One starter last night?
Ventura pitched a marvelous seven innings last night: two hits, a walk and six strikeouts. It marked the eighth time since the All-Star Break that Ventura has pitched six innings or more while giving up three runs or less. He looked every bit like the guy who put together five tremendous starts (32 IP, 4 runs) between August 11th and September 2nd. THAT guy looked every bit like the pitcher who gave up just one run in seven innings in the first post-season start of his life last year and the guy who threw seven innings of shutout ball in Game Six of the World Series. Similar guy to the fella who looked so good on Opening Day this year (before being felled by the thumb cramp from the grassy knoll).
Sure, the Royals went big at the trade deadline to get Johnny Cueto and did so specifically to have him be their ace in the post-season. Anyone who reads this or follows me on Twitter knows that I am a big Johnny Cueto fan. I still am, despite his troubles that seem to be ironing themselves out. Right now, I would still probably lean towards Cueto to start on October 8th in Game One of the ALDS, but I could be easily swayed to the idea of Ventura taking the ball that day. It appears that maybe the Royals are swaying that way as well.
The rotation, as pointed out by others, lines up for Ventura to be your Game One starter. Cueto will start tonight, Volquez on Wednesday and Medlen on Thursday. Friday would be Chris Young’s turn with Ventura and Cueto finishing the season over the weekend. That would line Ventura up to start Game One on regular rest and same for Cueto in Game Two.
The beauty of the two off days in a five game series is that should the ALDS go to a fifth game, the Royals would have the option of going to either Ventura (five days rest) or Cueto (four days rest) for that fifth game. Assuming they do win that fifth game, whichever did not pitch Game Five would be more than rested for Game One of the ALCS. Now, whomever starts a possible ALDS Game Five would not be available to make a start (unless the Royals go on short rest) until Game Three of the ALCS, but would – on regular rest – be good to go for a Game Seven.
Let’s assume that both the ALDS and the ALCS go the full series. Without using either Ventura or Cueto on three days rest, one of them would get four starts, the other three starts. Who gets which, however, is not dependent on who starts on October 8th. Perhaps the biggest question is not who starts Game One, but who starts Game Five. Here’s to hoping the Royals have already wrapped the ALDS up before we ever have to answer that question.