Oh, my. Just when the Royals needed a shutout to rescue their struggling offense, enter Yordano Ventura, who threw his best game as a major leaguer.
Ventura gave up seven hits through eight innings, walked two and struck out a career-high eight hitters.
The eight innings pitched by Ventura also was a career high, and the Royals crawled back to even at 11-11 with a 5-0 win.
— Mr. Ventura. Of course, we have to give a ton of love to Yordano Ventura, who stifled a red-hot Orioles team that had scored 21 runs in its previous two games. Ventura didn’t get a lot of help from the home-plate umpire, but he still managed to throw a career-high eight innings.
Most impressive was Ventura’s work early on. The Royals clearly went in with the game plan that Ventura would throw fastballs early. And when the O’s got two soft hits early in the second, Ventura responded with two strikeouts and a soft groundout to second by overmatching hitters with 98-mph fastballs. In the second, the O’s again put two runners on, but Ventura got a soft flare to shortstop and a strikeout. He was not seriously threatened again. Later on, catcher Sal Perez and Ventura brought out his 88-mph change-up and his devastating curve to silence the O’s.
— Billy Ball returns. Yes, we’re all waiting for Billy Butler to break out offensively and send some balls over the fence. But Billy hit a key RBI single to right in the first and a key RBI double to right in the ninth. As Billy has told me time and again, when he’s going right, he hits line drives to right-center and right for hits. And he did Friday. Expect a big power day from him soon.
— Three cheers for Ned! OK, I’m ducking at the response. But to be fair, skipper Ned Yost has to get some credit for his decisions Friday. In the first inning with two on and one out, Yost sent his runners, Omar Infante and Eric Hosmer, with Butler at the plate, and Butler responded with a bullet line drive to right for an RBI single. Infante would not have scored if not for Yost sending the runners.
And — I will own up when I’m wrong — I have been giving Yost grief this season for letting his struggling hitters swing on 3-0 pitches. (They were 0-4 with five outs and a double play entering Friday’s game.) But Norichika Aoki got the green light in the seventh on 3-0 and he chopped a grounder into right field for a single perfectly placed between first and second. That scored a big run.
— Situational hitting, my friends. The Royals wound up with Alcides Escobar on third and no outs in the second against a struggling pitcher in Ubaldo Jimenez. But the Royals didn’t push the run across. Jarrod Dyson, with the infield back, struck out. Then Aoki took a called third strike (horrible plate appearance) and Infante hit a lazy flyout to right.
— Royals seventh inning. This is nitpicking, but the Royals did have runners on first and second and no outs in the seventh with the meat of the order coming up and a chance to bury the O’s. But Hosmer struck out and Butler rolled into a double play. Ouch.
— Can we get some luck? Catcher Brett Hayes commented Thursday that he couldn’t believe how many times the Indians found holes with rather innocent-looking ground balls. I agreed. And the O’s early on also found at least four holes on not-so-hard-hit grounders. The Royals did get some of that luck with Aoki’s ground single on a 3-0 pitch. But it hasn’t evened out.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email email@example.com.