Though early inefficiency hastened his exit, Yordano Ventura mystified the Rays. For six electric innings, he held down the St. Petersburgers, allowing just a single to lead off the game and a Ben Zobrist double with one out in the fourth while striking out six and walking none. A Spring Training filled with glowing reports came to fruition on this, Ventura's first start of the season. Though he worked deep in counts for the first inning especially, Ventura showed the promise upon which the Royals are pinning any hopes for post-season play, stifling the perennial contenders--particularly Wil Myers, whose meek flailings at the plate resulted in three strikeouts against the 22-year-old righty.
Of course, Ventura's counterpart, fellow young chucker Chris Archer similarly embarrassed his opposition. Archer went seven innings, throwing just 91 pitches to get there, while allowing eight Royals to reach base. Despite allowing six hits and two free passes, Archer failed to yield a run. His innings weren't as trouble-free as Ventura's--the Royals loaded the bases in the third and sixth against the 25-year-old North Carolinian--but he worked out of his jams.
When things turned over to the pen, the Royals mounted another attack--loading the bases in the eighth--but their impotence with the bases loaded approached levels where a collective trip to the fertility clinic was scheduled before they made their way back to the clubhouse.
The Royals ended up being undone by their defense in the ninth inning. With Greg Holland in to send the game to the home-half of the ninth scoreless, Wil Myers shirked off the ignominy of the hat trick he'd earned in his first three times to the dish by "singling" to Mike Moustakas in the sort of infield hit that Scott Podsednik seemed so adept at getting, lucking into a muffed transfer on a slow dribbler that would have been a tough play for Moustakas. Ben Zobrist popped out weakly to right-center on a 1-2 slider, and Evan Longoria popped out to Hosmer in foul territory before Salvador Perez found himself unable to handle Greg Holland's slider. With James Loney at bat, Holland threw a slider in the dirt that took a hot bounce off Perez and caromed back to the wall, allowing Myers to advance to second base with ease. Regaining his composure and a full count, Loney grounded a single to right field that could well have been an out to second if an actual middle infielder was playing second base, but instead the ball just got past Valencia's glove. Aoki came up "firing," but it's fair to say that his arm isn't what some of the other Royals outfielders is, and the play wasn't close. With Loney having advanced to second on the Aoki throw, Perez found himself unable to handle another low slider, which glanced off his mitt before skittering behind home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott--no relation to Mr. Wolcott, presumably--before Jennings struck out and got the Royals out of the inning.
Yordano Ventura and the hope of a new season
It's not wise to place your hopes for a season on a 22-year-old pitcher, but sometimes that's the best option available.
Mike Moustakas, whose 0-24 start to the season had spurred the Royals to line up a babysitter to send home with him, led off the ninth with his first hit of the season--a weakly hit grounder up the middle--but was stranded at first as Alcides Escobar, Jarrod Dyson, and Norichika Aoki were made to look foolish by Aussie southpaw (or northpaw, whatever) Grant Balfour.
The fetid Royals offense had a few bright spots. Aoki had three singles, though he did DeJesus/Aviles his way into an out on the basepaths in the first. Escobar managed two hits and stole second base off of Archer and a Molina. Perez got two hits and walked for the seventh time in seven games. Butler singled but also grounded into a double play in the fourth that erased the Perez walk. Hosmer and Gordon each walked once to round out the attack.
While the Royals dropped below .500 once again--a mark they've not exceeded yet in this young season--it should be noted that their starting pitching has yet to be the problem for the Royals. Neither has Salvador Perez, whose season slash line sits at a robust .476/.607/.667 through seven games.
Oh, tiquanunderwear has more home runs this season than the Royals do as a team.