Speculation about the Royals’ pitching rotation for their American League Division Series with the Astros occurred outside of the coaches’ meeting room but never inside. Manager Ned Yost and the staff were going with Yordano Ventura in Game 4 all along.
“We sat down as a group and looked at it,” Yost said. “Ventura bounces back really, really well. We wanted to have our best power arms coming at these guys.”
That’s why the Royals set up the rotation with Ventura in Games 1 and 4, Johnny Cueto in Games 2 and 5 and Edinson Volquez in Game 3.
When he takes the mound on Monday, Ventura will find himself in an odd rest situation, in terms of days off and action.
His Game 1 start on Thursday lasted only two innings. A downpour hit Kauffman Stadium at the end of the second and sent the game into a 49-minute delay.
Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland determined that Ventura would not return, ending his evening at 42 pitches. Ventura had surrendered three runs and wound up taking the loss in a 5-2 Astros’ victory.
So, although Ventura is working on three days’ rest, he wasn’t taxed in his previous start.
“He recovers quick, his arm feels good and he’ll be ready,” said Royals catching coach Pedro Grifol, serving as a translator for Ventura. “Obviously it’s a different situation, but his routine is going to remain the same.”
Ventura hopes for a different outcome. The Astros jumped on Ventura from the outset. Leadoff hitter Jose Altuve singled, George Springer walked and Carlos Correa singled to load the bases.
A pair of ground-ball outs scored two runs.
Ventura got two quick outs in the second inning when Jake Marisnick doubled to the left-field wall and Altuve brought him in with a single.
The Royals made a habit of scoring first during the 2014 postseason. This time the Astros had dug in and the Royals never caught them.
The performance was a bit surprising after Ventura’s post-All Star Game efforts. He was the Royals’ top pitcher during the second half of the season, fashioning a 9-2 record and 3.56 ERA.
That ended any speculation about the playoff rotation, at least in the Royals coaches’ office. The idea became how to use Chris Young and Kris Medlen, who combined for 26 starts this season. Most of Young’s starts came before August. All of Medlen’s were in the season’s final six weeks.
Young would work long relief in Kansas City, Medlen in Houston.
“We liked the fact that we had Chris Young, who has been throwing the ball so well in long relief, to use at home in the big ballpark, fly-ball pitcher in a big ballpark. And Kris Medlen in long relief here, a ground-ball pitcher in a smaller ballpark. So we felt it set up real nice.”