Coming off a pair of brutal outings, Yordano Ventura was looking to right the ship for the Kansas City Royals on Friday night. He cruised through the first four innings. His team gave him a lead in the middle of the game. The ingredients were in place.
But Ventura ultimately couldn't hold the lead, and after one of the weirdest sequences you'll ever see in baseball, the Royals were too far behind for their struggling offense to catch up. The final resort was a 3-2 win for the Seattle Mariners, evening the series at one game apiece.
Ventura struck out three of the first five hitters he faced. He was locked into a pitcher's duel with Hisashi Iwakuma; the starters matched each other pitch-for-pitch through the first three-and-a-half innings. In the bottom of the fourth, the Royals put together a two-out rally when Salvador Perez walked, Paulo Orlando singled, and Cheslor Cuthbert singled to plate Perez. The Royals had a 1-0 lead, and the most talented pitcher on their staff was in complete control.
In the fifth, though, the Mariners suddenly began to make much better contact on Ventura. Kyle Seager led off the frame with a double, and he would score on a game-tying sacrifice fly by Ketel Marte. And in the sixth, Ventura got the first two men he faced out, but then the wheels completely came off.
Seth Smith singled. Robinson Cano doubled to right to put two men in scoring position. Nelson Cruz came to the plate and whacked a three-run home run, but the call was reviewed and ultimately overturned because it was clearly foul. However, after a five-minute absence and the game back to being tied, Ventura uncorked a hideous wild pitch, scoring Smith. Cano also scored, but it was ruled an error on Perez for throwing the ball over the head of an unaware Ventura, who was trying to make a late break to cover home. It was a hideous sequence, but the only thing that mattered at the end of it was that the Mariners had seized a 3-1 lead.
Ventura's final line: 7.0 innings, six hits, three runs, five strikeouts, and one walk. Overall, it wasn't a bad start by the numbers. However, Ventura's inability to be consistent over the entire duration of his outings, time after time, is far from what Royals fans expected when the team inked him to a long-term contract last April.
Ventura took the loss, dropping him to 6-7. His ERA since signing his contract is over 4.50.
Kansas City had a chance to tie the game in the home half of the seventh when Orlando and Alcides Escobar made their way into scoring position with two outs. Iwakuma was lifted, and reliever Edwin Diaz fell behind Jarrod Dyson 3-0. He threw two straight borderline strikes before getting Dyson to ground out to Cano, ending the threat.
Perez walloped a solo home run in the ninth inning to cut the deficit in half. It was his 13th of the year. But Steve Cishek settled in to get the last two Royals out, securing his 21st save of the year.
Iwakuma (9-6) earned the win. He gave up five hits in 6.2 innings. He allowed one run, walked three, and struck out six.
Bright spot for the evening: Brian Flynn, possibly tuning up for a start on Sunday, was terrific in two innings of relief. He struck out three of the seven men he faced, allowing a mere single in the eighth and ninth frames.
Tomorrow: Edinson Volquez and Wade Miley, the same Wade Miley who has an ERA over 5.00 but threw a shutout this year against Kansas City, will meet at 3:15 pm for control of the series.