Yordano Ventura unspooled the protective wraps from the right arm that silenced the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday afternoon. He removed another wrap from the right leg that betrayed him midway through the 9-2 Royals victory. He leaned back in a clubhouse chair and sipped from a 16-ounce bottle of water. The day had taxed his body and his emotions.
About 90 minutes earlier, Ventura starred in a sixth-inning tempest that added drama to yet another rollicking afternoon for the Royals. He jawed with Angels superstar Mike Trout. Their altercation inspired all 50 members of both clubs to sprint onto the diamond.
When Ventura experienced a cramp in his calf soon after, he exited to resounding jeers from the fans at Angels Stadium, where the Angels themselves offered scant protest in the face of a three-game wipeout by the Royals.
“He pitches with a lot of emotion,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Ventura. “He’s a real intense competitor. He got fired up there.”
The intrigue should not overshadow the Royals’ sustained offensive success. Through two series, they have outscored opponents 40-15. Kansas City and Detroit are the only unbeaten clubs left in baseball, and the two clubs appear on a collision course once more. In the interim, the Royals flew to Minneapolis on Sunday night for three games with the cellar-dwelling Twins.
Ventura, 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA, fanned seven Angels and allowed only three hits before leaving the game. He has left both of his starts this season due to cramping. His early departure coincided with yet another astounding offensive performance from the Royals.
Salvador Perez delivered his third homer of the season. Reserve outfielder Paulo Orlando tripled twice and became the first player in since 1900 to begin his career with three triples, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Alcides Escobar drove in three runs, Alex Rios knocked in two more and Kendrys Morales drove in a pair. The offense tagged Angels starter C.J. Wilson for seven runs and chased him in the sixth inning.
In the bottom half of the inning, with the Royals leading by six runs, Trout stepped in against Ventura. The second pitch of the at-bat was a 96-mph fastball that soared up and in toward Trout’s head. Trout rifled the next pitch up the middle. It was the first hit Ventura had yielded since a solo homer by Albert Pujols in the first.
When Trout reached first base, he found Ventura glaring at him. This confused Trout. He shouted to Ventura to find out what, precisely, the pitcher was looking at.
“It kind of made him mad,” said the Royals’ Christian Colon, who interpreted for Ventura. “That’s what started the thing at home plate.”
Pujols was the next batter. He flicked a double. Trout scored. As he rose from the plate, he clapped his hands and shook his fists. Trout indicated his exhortation was directed toward teammate Matt Joyce. Ventura did not appear to agree.
“I told Joyce, ‘Let’s go!’ and then he got in my face,” Trout said. “I’m just trying to play my game. I’m not trying to get into fights or anything.”
But Trout did lock eyes with Ventura after he scored. Ventura mumbled something under his breath that Trout said he could not understand. As the pair prepared to square up, Perez grabbed Ventura by the shoulders to remove him from the fray. Pujols sprinted toward the group from second base. The benches and dugouts soon emptied.
Asked afterward what transpired between Trout and him, Ventura snorted. Then he gave an answer in Spanish to Colon.
“It was just baseball,” Colon said. “It was some back-and-forth. Competing. It’s just going after each other. It happens in baseball. When he came around and scored, they were right there to meet each other.”
As the game resumed, Perez sought to keep his pitcher composed. At 24, Ventura exudes confidence. He is considered difficult to rattle. A slew of Royals, including Escobar, Morales, Rios, third baseman Mike Moustakas and first baseman Eric Hosmer, tried to calm Ventura. Perez saw defusing the situation as his responsibility.
“I didn’t want to fight,” Perez said. “In that situation, we’re winning by five runs. So I didn’t want him to fight, get out of the game, whatever. A couple more innings would be good for the bullpen.”
Ventura could not provide that. He informed Perez that he felt a cramp in his leg.
When Joyce hit a grounder to first base, Ventura hunched at the waist and remained on the mound. Out came trainer Nick Kenney and Ventura’s day was done.
At that point, the outcome of the game was just about decided. Ventura dominated the Angels for the first five innings.
Ventura came out blazing. He struck out Erick Aybar with a 95-mph fastball and whiffed Trout with a 99-mph missile. Pujols sensed the pattern. He clobbered a waist-high, 98-mph fastball for a solo home run.
Ventura was undeterred. He unveiled his curveball in the subsequent innings to devastating effect. He fanned C.J. Crown with one in the second. Collin Cowgill stared at a 1-2 bender for a third-inning strikeout. Joyce chased a breaking ball at his shins in the fourth. The fastball remained a weapon: Ventura stunned David Freese with a wicked, 97-mph heater for the last strike of the fourth inning.
“He’s always right there in the zone,” Escobar said. “He’s throwing really good.”
Wilson last faced the Royals in the third game of the American League Division Series, when Angels manager Mike Scioscia yanked him with two outs in the first inning. On this occasion, Wilson procured three outs without much difficulty. It was the second inning that felled him.
The Royals tied the game with a trio of singles. Freese missed a hot-shot grounder by Omar Infante that gave Kansas City the lead. Escobar raked a two-run double, and Rios added a two-run double three innings later. Orlando tripled in the sixth and the seventh. He scored both times. Perez lofted the club’s ninth homer of the season in the seventh, too.
It was a rout, and the Royals enjoyed the outcome. Ventura may have been agitated by how his outing ended, but his team continues to roll.
“To start the year the way we have, playing the way we have, it’s exciting,” Yost said. “It’s fun. You just keep it going for as long as you can. Because we’re really firing on all cylinders right now.”