Seems like every time I settle down to write something about a Royals game, I end up having to discuss a Royals batter hit by a pitch.
This is getting tiresome.
Wednesday night, it was Alcides Escobar who was drilled. And it was the scariest one of a season already filled with far too many similar incidents. Escobar took a 96 mph fastball from Indians starter Danny Salazar on the helmet. The sound of ball connecting with plastic is nauseating. Escobar left the game and will continue to be evaluated for symptoms of a concussion. Initial reports are optimistic. We will see.
The April script calls for Yordano Ventura to be on the mound when something notable happens to a Royals batter, and there he was. This time, he held his emotions in check throughout the game. His command was another issue.
It’s been an interesting season already for Ventura and when I write that, I’m not taking into account the cramps, the ejections and the settling of scores. It’s like he has an on-off switch that is flipped on a per inning basis. He was so clearly in command in the first inning. Then he walked the first batter he faced in the second and you could see the cracks forming. The rails came off in the third. He delivered three straight balls to the leadoff batter, before surrendering a single to Roberto Perez on a 3-1 count with a 94 mph fastball. The next batter, Michael Borne, perhaps knowing since Ventura was struggling with his command would try to ease one into the zone, was all over a 94 mph fastball that caught all of the plate. Ventura then fell behind Jason Kipnis 2-0. Trouble. Kipnis sat dead-red and launched one into the bleachers in right field.
Ventura walked four batters and whiffed just one. He was pulled in the sixth after coughing up back to back doubles with one out. It was the first time all year Ned Yost walked to the mound to pull Ventura from a game.
The final line on Ventura: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 1 SO. He exited with a game score of 33. In 37 starts with the Royals, that is his fourth-lowest Game Score. His third lowest was the start against Oakland when he was asked to leave after plunking Brett Lawrie.
After the game, Ventura admitted that maybe he dialed things back just a bit in an effort to harness his emotions. His velocity chart confirms this. This was not a typical Ventura start:
This was exactly the thing I was worried about. Ventura is a young kid and can certainly be immature at times, but he pitches with great emotion. Remove that, and you remove his fire. You get this kind of Zombie Ventura on the mound which, as we saw on Wednesday, is not a good thing. Yet I hope that Ventura understands that he was able to finally have a start this year where he didn’t become the story because of the unique way he exited the game. Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction to get him back on track. The Royals don’t need him offering paybacks or jawing at the opposition. They need him throwing fire. The byproduct of the sideshow from the first four starts is we get a pitcher who is unsure of himself and who feels the need to keep things under control. It’s a stretch to call this start successful – the box score is ugly – yet it was successful in that he was able to actually have his manager decide when it was time for him to leave the game. The side effects may linger, but the hope is Ventura will soon be back throwing fire.