The rains came and Royals manager Ned Yost had a decision to make.
Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura had battled through two innings, surrendering three runs. He was finding the plate but Astros hitters weren’t missing.
As the delay unexpectedly dragged on, Yost made the call after consulting with pitching coach Dave Eiland and catcher Salvador Perez. Ventura’s night was over.
“It was an hour, we were pushing it,” Yost said.
The delay officially lasted 49 minutes, but the intent was clear. Yost was thinking about the rest of the series. Ventura’s availability to pitch the fourth game on three day’s rest figured into the decision.
“Yeah, absolutely, we’ll probably bring him back now,” Yost said.”
That is, if there is a Game 4. The Astros’ early success sent them on their way to a 5- 2 victory on Thursday in the American League Division Series opener.
“He’s ready whenever the team needs him,” said infielder Christian Colon, interpreting for Ventura.
The lead was 3- 1 when Chris Young entered the game and delivered what the Royals needed, quiet innings.
The lanky right hander struck out the side in the third and fourth innings, breaking Royals postseason record for relief pitchers in the process. Charlie Leibrandt had fanned five in the seventh game of the 1985 American League Championship Series victory over the Blue Jays.
Young surrendered a solo home run to George Springer in the fifth but ended the inning with a strikeout of Colby Rasmus, his seventh. It didn’t feel like a success to Young.
“I just wish we had come out on top,” Young said. “I wish I had been able to hold the game closer.
“But we’ll bounce back.”
The appearance occurred less than two weeks after the death of his father in late September. He pitched five scoreless innings against the Indians the following day.
Young’s final line Thursday: four innings, three hits, one walk and seven strikeouts.
“He got us early and did a good job coming in after the rain delay,” Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick said. “He kind of shut us down there for a little bit.”
But by then, the Astros had built a lead they wouldn’t lose, jumping on Ventura from the first batter.
Jose Altuve singled, Springer walked and Carlos Correa singled to right to load the bases.
Springer and Correa had each battled with two strikes. Ventura couldn’t find a pitch to put either away, and Altuve and Springer scored on productive ground outs by Rasmus and Evan Gattis.
Ventura was on his way to a clean second inning, getting two quick outs and a 0 -2 count on Marisnick. But Ventura’s next pitch caught too much of the plate and Marisnick drove it to the wall in left- center.
Altuve’s broken bat single made it 3 -0.
“You have to tip your hats to them,” Ventura said. “It seemed like they were looking for that one pitch, and when they got that pitch they didn’t miss it.”
Ventura said he agreed with the move to end his night.
“It was more taking care of his arm, making sure he doesn’t get hurt,” Colon said. “He was waiting for a while. He might not have felt it tonight but tomorrow it might have been different. They were making sure he stays healthy.”
The Royals got one back in the second when Kendrys Morales hit the first of his two solo home runs. When Alex Gordon grounded out to end the inning, a drizzle had become a downpour and the game was halted.
So was Ventura’s evening. He’ll return to pitch another day, and the Royals hope they’re alive in the series for that to happen.