On a warmer night, Yordano Ventura would not have shut the Toronto Blue Jays out through five innings. He would have been tagged for a two run homer in the top of first when Edwin Encarnacion sent a 97 mph fastball to the wall in left field.
It was not warm, however, and when Ventura struck out Jose Reyes looking with a 96 mph offering to end the top half of the fifth, he had held Jays scoreless on two hits and two walks. It was the finish of his first one-two-three inning, having allowed single runners in each of the first four frames that ballooned his pitch count to 92. Fun fact of the night: 34 of Ventura's first 39 pitches were fastballs. Yeah, if I could throw 99, I'd do it all the time, too.
That is a lot - too many - pitches for just five innings, but seven of Ventura's fifteen fifth inning pitches had whistled in at either 96 or 97 mph. On a cool night, having just completed his best inning of the game and with plenty of zip still in his fastball, I think most expected to see the Royals' most exciting player come back out for the sixth. After all, Ned Yost had left Ventura out for 113 pitches the start before, so it was hardly unknown territory.
That said, Ned Yost had left Ventura out on the mound for 113 pitches the start before and might well have decided before the game that his talented hurler would not be allowed to pile up back to back high pitch count outings. To be honest, I cannot disagree with that line of thought, but given how Ventura pitched in the fifth, I would have been inclined to send him back out for another inning or piece of an inning, anyway. Of course, I really wanted to win tonight's game.
The Royals turned the sixth inning over to Danny Duffy who, after imploding all over himself on Sunday proceeded to hit Melky Cabrera and walk Jose Bautista, leaving quite a mess for Aaron Crow. While he struck out the side, Crow also gave up two singles and allowed both of Duffy's runs to score to erase the Royals 2-0 lead.
A patented Ned Yost exhibition of first inning small ball (double, bunt, sacrifice fly) had yielded one run, while back to back doubles by Infante and Hosmer added a second. It looked for a moment as though the Royals would get a third run when Eric Hosmer was called out at home on an Alex Gordon ground out.
Blue Jays' catcher Dionner Navarro appeared to not leave a 'sliding lane' for Hosmer, but I'm not sure anyone (no matter their proximity to the dirt) has any real idea what the new rules mean. The out was upheld and, honestly, I don't know if that was the right call or not. I suppose if it was Salvador Perez's leg that had been broken instead of Buster Posey's I might have a different feeling, but I miss the homeplate collision.
Anyway, after Kelvin Herrera pitched a scoreless, albeit unclean seventh (what the hell, Chris Getz? Two hits and one for extra bases?!!), we found ourselves with a tie game and Billy Butler on first with a roped lead-off single. Out game pinch runner Jimmy Paredes, who was the lucky recipient of a stolen base only after Getz paid it forward by not handling a throw that would have easily netted the Blue Jays an out.
More luck came the Royals/Paredes' way when in the same at-bat to Sal Perez, the Royals' pinch runner broke for third and was safe when Navarro did not handle the pitch of Drew Hutchison. The Jays' starter (still not up to Ventura's five inning pitch count) then proceeded to walk Perez, but got MIke Moustakas to pop out to freaking Chris Getz. Somewhere Lee Judge chortled.
Up came Alcides Escobar, who proceeded to have just a horrible at-bat.....until Alcides hacked a fastball up at the letters down the third base line to drive in two runs. That made four runs. F-O-U-R. One may be the loneliest number, but four is apparently the lucky number. The Royals don't lose when they score four runs (not many other teams do, either, by the way).
In an obvious effort to make Danny Duffy, Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera not feel bad, Wade Davis allowed the first two base runners to reach base (the first three had all allowed two runners each). However, Davis then struck out the next two batters only to find himself facing THAT MAN, Chris Getz. A walk? No way. A walk to Chris Getz, because well, karma or something. Of course, Davis then struck out Reyes on three pitches, because Wade Davis makes everything difficult.
I don't know what I was worried about: the Royals already had four runs. They don't - hell, they cannot - lose when scoring four runs.
Eric Hosmer doubled with two outs in the ninth (his second of the night) only to be stranded by pinch runner Jimmy Paredes' grounding out. I bring that up only because using a pinch-runner in the 7th inning of a tie game surely is not in the book that Ned Yost so dearly loves and of course (because Ned doesn't really have much good fortune), that unorthodox move caused Paredes to come up in the 9th inning of a two run game.
Or course, it really didn't matter, because the ROYALS HAD ALREADY SCORED FOUR RUNS! Realistically, it didn't matter because the Royals had a two run lead and Greg Holland pitching in the ninth. Not sure if you guys have noticed, but Greg Holland is filthy, nasty, stupid good.
Ground out, broken bat liner, double (does Lorenzo Cain catch that? I don't know, just wondering), fly out: game over.
Between Yordano Ventura and Greg Holland, four Royals' pitchers allowed ELEVEN base runners, and Holland added one more just to be 'one of the guys', but it didn't matter. That is a 14-12 April: certainly not buried, maybe something the Royals can build on.