Ned Yost set his World Series rotation today, giving the Game One nod to Edinson Volquez. The decision makes sense on several levels.
First, it puts Volquez on regular rest. Second, it puts the Royals’ most consistent post-season starter in position to get his team off to a positive World Series start.
Volquez pitched ten spectacular innings in the Toronto series and two agonizingly shaky frames. He emerged from one of those shaky innings unscathed and did not emerge from the second such inning at all. In fact, Volquez was just one Troy Tulowitzki double off Kelvin Herrera away from finishing the ALCS with just two runs allowed in twelve innings against the highest scoring offense in the game.
The free agent signing that few were happy about has become the obvious choice to start the second Game One of a World Series to be played in Kansas City in the last twelve months. Volquez is not likely to strike out double digit hitters like a hot Yordano Ventura might, nor is he likely to spin eight innings of complete domination that Johnny Cueto might. However, he is quite simply the most likely starter on the staff to toss five, maybe six innings of quality baseball. To look at it from a different direction, Volquez is the least likely to bury his team by pitching poorly early in the game.
With a rested bullpen going in and an off-day after Game Two, one would assume the Yost will be less likely to try to coax an extra inning out of Volquez as well. Five good innings followed by a lead-off walk in the sixth? Let’s have the relief corps up and ready, okay Ned?
Now, the angst portion of our headline comes from the announced Game Two starter: Johnny Cueto.
Who will toe the slab on Wednesday night? The distract (paranoid?) guy who could get no one out in Toronto or the guy who gave up two hits in eight innings to get his team to the ALCS? Or maybe it will be the guy who pitched an ‘okay’ Game Two in the ALDS, giving up four runs over six innings. Hell, if anyone has an idea, they are lying and that might well include Johnny Cueto himself.
There was talk – talk radio talk, so take it for what it’s worth – that Cueto should not start at all in the Series. You almost have to start him. Pitching in the post-season is the only reason the Royals traded for him to begin with and, ugly as it might be, they are 2-1 in games he started this post-season. Plus, there is the tantalizing prospect of ALDS Game Five Cueto showing up.
Game Three in New York belongs to Yordano Ventura, which already has some national types wondering about his ability to control his emotions on the big stage in the big city. I don’t have near the problem with Ventura staring down Troy Tulowitzki (who, let’s face it, is a great player with an attitude) as I do with a first-base coach who never did anything of note on a major league diamond mouthing off about it. Ventura might lose it or he might strike just the balance of emotional edge that makes him great. We have all seen a calm, collected Ventura pitch just as bad as an irate Yordano and also seen an edgy Ventura be dominant.
However he does it – with or without emotion – a solid outing from Ventura will be needed in Game Three as the Royals will go with Chris Young for the next game. Young has done all that has been asked of him this post-season and done it well, but he won’t do it for very long. Yost has shown that five innings is all he wants or expects to get from Young and thus having a bullpen that maybe only had to cover three innings the night before would be extremely helpful.
In the end, however, Cueto is everyone’s focus. He is the one whose mental make-up is questioned, whose ‘want’ has come under scrutiny. He is also the one who could simply go out and win a game all on his own….or lose it in a hurry. Worried? Uncertain? Those emotions are well warranted and probably apply to Ventura as well.
Well, who among us, back in April, thought he would be the Game One starter and, more importantly, would be the rotation member in whom we almost universally have the most confidence? Not sure if you noticed, but Dayton Moore had a good off-season.
Game on, boys and girls.