Facing elimination, Ned Yost and the Royals turn to Yordano Ventura to keep their season alive.
This is not the first time the onus of thwarting the enemy in a must-win affair has fallen on the Dominican flame-thrower's shoulders. In Game Six of last year's World Series, the Royals trailed the Giants three games to two when Ventura took the mound and shut down the Giants' offense for seven innings, allowing just three hits and no runs.
Of course, Ventura is pitching today largely because he was struggling through two innings in Game One when a rain delay rendered a decision to pull him to have him ready for Game Four tenable. What the Royals have to hope for is that the Yordano Ventura who threw in his final 11 starts of the season is the one that shows up Monday. That Yordano Ventura went 68.0 innings with 81 strikeouts, 28 walks, a 2.38 ERA, and 7-1 record from August 11 through the end of the regular season.
In a series in which the Royals' offense has struggled to produce runs, it would seem that Ventura's margin for error will be virtually nonexistent. The shutdown version of Ventura likely needs to be the one who shows up on the mound in Houston if the Royals are to have a chance to extend their season by at least one game.
The Royals' offense will face Astros' rookie right-hander Lance McCullers. McCullers lives off his four-seam fastball and curveball, occasionally mixing in a change-up. A supplemental first-round draft pick in 2012, McCullers tossed just 32 innings in Double-A before getting the call directly to the majors. The high walk rates that marred his progression through the minors have been strangely absent upon reaching the bigs. In 125.2 major-league innings, he posted a 9.24 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, 3.00 K/BB, 3.22 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 3.50 xFIP, and 3.57 SIERA.
It should probably be noted that heading into this season, McCullers had thrown just 227.2 innings in the minors before this year and this season has seen the 22-year-old surpass his previous season-high of 104.2 by 53 innings. The Astros took steps in August to try to limit his workload by resting him in Corpus Christi to keep him fresh for the end of the season and beyond. Obviously the Astros have taken some measures to try to prevent him wearing down, but at the very least, McCullers is in uncharted waters when it comes to his workload.