Yordano Ventura ended the regular season exactly as he began it:  as the Royals’ best starting pitcher.

There were a couple of trainwrecks in between, but Ventura enters the post-season having logged six innings or more in 10 of his last 15 starts.  He struck out 11 last Saturday, eliminating the Twins from post-season consideration and threw seven shutout innings the start before against the Cubs.  He enters tonight’s playoff game with several reputations depending on where you are from, but one of those is that he is a big game pitcher.

Most of that comes from Game Six of the World Series last year, when Ventura held the Giants scoreless through seven innings with the Royals facing elimination.  He was solid, if unspectacular in Game Two, throwing five plus innings and allowing two runs.  His first post-season start was a seven inning one run gem on the road in Anaheim.  Yes, there was a so-so start in Baltimore and the ugly relief appearance in the Wild Card Game that was more a case of managerial malpractice than anything else, but still, a rookie pitcher having two great, one okay and one so-so start in his first post-season?  That’s pretty good.

Oh, and the Royals won all four post-season games Yordano Ventura started.

What about other ‘big game’?

Ventura’s major league debut was as a starter and he tossed five and two-thirds innings and allowed just one run.  His first start as a ‘real’ member of the starting rotation came on April 8, 2014 and Ventura tossed six innings of two hit shutout baseball.  Down the stretch of 2014, when the Royals were making their push for the playoffs in 29 years, Ventura went 10 straight starts where he pitched six innings or more and only once allowed more than three runs.

While 2015 was – shall we say a bit rocky? – the closest to a playoff atmosphere was certainly Opening Day and Ventura tossed six innings and allowed just one run before being felled by a thumb cramp. Through all the trials and tribulations of what was Ventura’s season, he did pile up TWELVE starts where he went six or seven inning and allowed two runs or less.

So, the Royals play the first of what is hopefully a number of ‘big games’ tonight and Yordano Ventura, a pitcher with swing and miss stuff, will face down an Astros team that swings and misses a lot.  I like the Royals tonight and expect Ventura to have a good start.  This is who the Royals thought he was, it just took a little longer to get there than we had hoped.

Game Notes:

  • Gomes, Orlando and/or Gore?  The final two roster spots, barring a surprise, comes down to these three guys.  Just a few days ago, I thought Gomes was a lock just for the idea of him coming off the bench to pinch-hit against a lefty.  In an American League series, however, when would that happen?  Yost, who doesn’t like to pinch-hit anyway, is not going to do so for Hosmer, probably won’t for Moustakas, can’t for Escobar and won’t for Gordon.  Maybe, just maybe, if you pinch run Dyson or Gore or Orlando (depending who of the latter two makes the roster) late and that spot comes back up (extra innings), then Gomes would hit.  Is planning for that contingency more important than having a third pinch-runner?  Maybe.  It will seem damn important if Terrance Gore is schedule to hit down one in the bottom of the 12th!
  • Is Danny Duffy the fireman this post-season?  That is how I would use him.  Ryan Madson has been great, so has Kelvin Herrera, but they have also had their bad moments as well.  If Madson gives up two line drives to start the seventh, do you go to Duffy?  Ditto for Herrera in the eighth.
  • Last year, Lorenzo Cain had himself a monster post-season. My prediction for this year is that Eric Hosmer (who was not shabby last year) announces his presence with authority.
  • If you are a rational human and watched Dallas Keuchel carve up the Yankees Tuesday night, you know how absolutely lovely it would be to take both games in Kansas City before facing the Astros’ ace in Game Three down south.  Yes, I know the Royals jumped on Keuchel last time they saw him.  No, I don’t think that will happen again.
  • As Royals’ fans, we got used to playing out the string in August and September of many seasons and this year was no different, except that playing out the string meant waiting for the playoffs to start. Looking back, that was a good feeling. Let’s make a habit of it.