For the first time in his major-league career, Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura stood on the mound as a reliever Sunday.
He replaced pitcher Bruce Chen, who pitched 5 1/3 innings in his first start since April. Ventura entered the game in the sixth with one on and one out and the Royals trailing by two runs.
“When he came in, I told him, ‘Kiddo, hold them right here,’ ” manager Ned Yost said. “ ‘We’re going to score some runs. You’ve got a chance to get a win.’ At the end of the game, he had a big smile on his face, so it worked out.”
Yost said he didn’t have any concern about bringing in Ventura during the middle of an inning or with runners on base.
Ventura, who ended up as the winning pitcher in the 5-2 victory over the Tigers, was asked after the game if it was nice to poach a win from Chen. Ventura flashed a broad smile and laughed before Chen had even translated the question.
Ventura said he couldn’t remember the last time he came on in relief, warming up during the game in the bullpen and entering with a runner already on first base.
“I was nervous, because that’s the first time I’ve done that in the big leagues,” Ventura said through Chen as a translator. “I’m glad I was able to pitch well and throw strikes.”
Yost mentioned Saturday that Ventura would be available for a relief appearance if he were needed and could possibly go three or four innings. Ventura pitched 1 2/3 innings Sunday and gave up no runs and one hit and struck out three in 26 pitches.
Ventura is the sixth Royals rookie to have seven or more wins before heading into the All-Star break, and the first since Tom Gordon had 10 wins in 1989.
The outfield continued to see movement Sunday, with Raul Ibañez back in the lineup for the first time since Thursday’s opening game in the series against the Tigers.
Ibañez started in left field, with Jarrod Dyson in center and Nori Aoki back in right field after playing left on Saturday for the first time since 2012, when he was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.
The absence of left fielder Alex Gordon, who has been out of the lineup since Wednesday after spraining his right wrist against Tampa Bay, has caused much of the shake-up.
Yost said he is shooting for Gordon to return in Boston for the first series after the All-Star break.
“It doesn’t matter how he’s feeling right now; he’s not even told to test it and he’s been really good about it,” Yost said of Gordon. “He’s a guy that you’ve got to keep your eye on. We told him we don’t even want him touching a bat until he comes back. Those eight days should put him in line to be in a pretty good position, so we’ll see.”
No rest for Perez
Salvador Perez did not start Sunday because Yost said he was trying to give Perez some rest ahead of the All-Star break.
“Salvy’s played 27 games in the last 29 days,” Yost said before the game. “It’s a huge game, but he’s getting worn down, and that’s my fault because I play him so much. But, with the All-Star break coming up, he’s not going to have much of a break and we’ve got to try to find ways to take some of the load off of him.”
In Perez’s place was backup catcher Brett Hayes, who made his first start since June 25 against the Dodgers. Hayes doubled deep to left-center in the third inning for the Royals’ first hit of the game.
In the seventh, the game was tied 2-2 and Yost sent Perez out to pinch hit for Hayes. Perez was intentionally walked and later scored on Eric Hosmer’s ground-rule double.
Perez caught the rest of the game for relievers Wade Davis and Greg Holland.
Hosmer’s hitting streak
Hosmer’s double extended his hitting streak to a career-best 13 and the longest by a Royal since 2012, when Perez hit safely in 17 straight games.
A first at the K
Sunday’s victory gave the Royals their first home win against Detroit in seven games this season.
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