KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Royals’ phenom did his job.
The rest of the Royals? Not so much.
Brutal defense and subpar bullpen work spoiled the major league debut of Royals 22-year-old right-hander Yordano Ventura on Tuesday night. Ventura left with a 3-1 lead after working an efficient 5 2/3 innings.
And actually, Ventura should have left with a 3-0 lead and having pitched six innings.
But Cleveland’s Nick Swisher led off the sixth with a fairly routine grounder that second baseman Emilio Bonifacio booted. Swisher, oddly, was credited with a single. Then with two outs and runners on first and third, Michael Brantley hit a sinking liner to right that right fielder David Lough froze on, then broke too late to reach.
That put the Indians on the board and brought Royals skipper Ned Yost to the mound. Yost’s bullpen got the Royals out of further damage in the sixth.
But Kelvin Herrera gave up two runs in the seventh, Wade Davis gave up another run in the eighth (thanks to another misplay, this one from Alex Gordon in left field) and Luke Hochevar surrendered a home run in the ninth.
It all added to a dismal 5-3 loss to the Indians that severely hurt the Royals’ playoff chances. The Royals dropped to 3 1/2 games behind Texas and Tampa Bay in the wild-card hunt. They also fell three games behind Cleveland with just one game left with the Indians this season.
The loss took most of the joy out of Ventura’s outing, who received standing ovations three times — once each after the first two innings, and once more as he exited with a 3-1 lead in the sixth.
The crowd of 21,685 stood and roared, and Ventura acknowledged the fans with a tip of his cap.
“(Catcher) Sal Perez told me to make sure I tip my hat,” Ventura said with a smile through interpreter Bruce Chen. “That was very nice of them.”
Ventura said the crowd was the biggest he’d ever pitched in front of, outside of the exhibition Futures Game in 2012, also here at Kauffman Stadium.
“They got my (energy) up,” Ventura said.
Ventura walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, but ended the first by striking out Jason Kipnis. Ventura had three Ks for the night.
“I was pretty nervous when the game started,” Ventura said.
In the second inning, Ventura hit 101 on the scoreboard radar with a pitch to Michael Brantley, who subsequently rolled into a double play in the inning.
“I thought the kid did great,” Yost said. “He was pretty pumped up at first but he really settled down and gave us what we needed.
“We just couldn’t hold it.”
Yost indicated that Ventura would be in line for another start, likely early next week.
“Absolutely,” Yost said.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at email@example.com