Just one week after the Kansas City Royals steamrolled to a six-game winning streak, they suddenly have followed that up by losing six straight contests. However, the damage of Tuesday night's 9-1 loss in Baltimore isn't limited to the standings. The offense may not be able to deal any sort of punch, but one of the team's starting pitchers sure knows how to land one.
Yordano Ventura, who has a well-documented history of igniting brawls on the baseball field, began his evening by allowing the first four Orioles to reach base. By the time he recorded his first out of the game, Baltimore already led 3-0. The score was 4-0 after the first inning, but it could have been much worse, had it not been for an amazing, home-run stealing catch by Lorenzo Cain.
In the second, the Orioles added another run, but the play worth remembering is a deep fly-out by Manny Machado. Earlier in that at-bat, Ventura pitched Machado inside to brush him off the plate, and that didn't sit well with the All-Star shortstop. After Machado flied out to right, he barked at Ventura on his way back to the Orioles dugout, and it was clear that tension was rising between the two hot-tempered young players.
The next time Machado came up, which in the fifth inning, all hell broke lose.
Ventura reared back and fired a 99-mph fastball, the fastest of his 59 pitches on the night, directly into the back of Machado, who immediately stormed the mound. Punches were thrown. Ventura probably took the bigger beating. Both players were ejected. Here's the video:
I mean, what can I even say about Yordano Ventura anymore? He's been terrible on the mound for the entire year. The one thing that we could praise about him was that he seemed to have a newfound composure thus far in 2016, and all of that went to hell tonight. His pitch was embarrassing, and it's obvious that his teammates are running out of patience with him. Prior to being escorted into the clubhouse, Eric Hosmer barked at him to "get off the field," and he was later captured by cameras sitting in the corner of the dugout by himself. He's brilliantly talented, but at the age of 25, he's nowhere near as mature as he needs to be to reach his potential.
On the other hand, you can understand exactly why Ventura was upset. Machado, who has also been involved in his fair share of brawls, was talking a lot of trash to Ventura in his prior at-bat. Ventura did nothing wrong in the second inning when he threw up-and-in on Machado. And as far as everyone getting mad at him for "dropping his glove and getting ready to fight," well, yeah, what would you do if somebody threw their batting helmet at you and was charging at you to fight?
Suspensions for both players are inevitable. This certainly hurts the Orioles more than the Royals, as Machado is one of the best players in baseball. In addition to a sterling glove and a cannon arm, his .380 on-base percentage, 15 home runs, and 37 RBI are among the league leaders. Ventura, who took the loss and fell to 4-4, is sitting with a 5.32 ERA.
Oh, and then there's the offense. The Royals had two on with two out in the first inning - they scored no runs. They had runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out in the third frame - still no runs. And then came the fourth inning, where Kansas City loaded the bases with none out, Reymond Fuentes worked a walk to plate one run, but couldn't draw any further damage, even with the top of the order coming up and nobody out.
Ubaldo Jimenez, tonight's starter for the Orioles, had an ERA of over 8.00 in his last eight games. He fired five innings of one-run ball, dodging bullet after bullet when he got into trouble with men on base. He allowed 12 baserunners and struck out just four, yet miraculously only allowed one run.
The offensive struggles are incredible, honestly. In the Royals last 48 innings, which spans more than five games, they have scored four runs. In those 48 innings, the Royals have had a whopping 45 baserunners - just four have scored. One was on an error. One was on a walk. One was on a bloop single. The other was on a home run by the backup catcher. That's...you may watch 1,000 more baseball games and never see anything like that again.
The only two runs Kansas City has scored this series have come on a bounced throw that hit off of Cheslor Cuthbert's funny bone and a bases-loaded walk. The Royals have been outscored 38-4 since the sixth inning of Thursday's collapse in Cleveland.
The Orioles, who actually have a major-league offense, hit four home runs on Tuesday night. Ryan Flaherty hit one of the furthest bombs I've ever seen off Ventura in the second. Right after the Ventura/Machado brawl, Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis went back-to-back in the fifth. And then in the sixth, Adam Jones lined a homer past the short wall in left field.
Kansas City has lost six straight games for the first time since August 2013. The Royals are 30-28. They are also a terrible 11-21 on the road this year.
Up next: the series concludes tomorrow when Edinson Volquez opposes Chris Tillman. The Royals need a win worse than anything at this point, but they'll have to beat the Orioles ace to get on the board on this roadtrip.