RIP OT #18: Royals’ Ventura says Taveras would have been ‘very proud’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — From the minute he learned that Oscar Taveras had died, Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura said his start in the World Series on Tuesday night would be dedicated to his close friend.

Ventura made sure those watching knew he was remembering his friend, too, by wearing the inscription "RIP O.T. #18" on the front of his cap.

Ventura then turned in a performance that will make sure he is remembered for a long, long time.

Throwing a fastball that reached 100 mph and backed by a seven-run second inning, Ventura pitched seven shutout innings as the Royals beat the San Francisco Giants, 10-0, to send the World Series to Game 7.

"Awesome," said Royals manager Ned Yost, as if nothing else needed to be said.

But he added some perspective to show just what he meant.

"You’ve got a 23-year-old kid pitching the biggest game that this stadium has seen in 29 years," Yost continued. "With our backs against the wall, he goes out there in complete command of his emotions with great stuff and throws seven shutout innings. To perform the way that he did was special."

The last time the Royals made the playoffs was 1985 and they beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 11-0, in a Game 7 in the same stadium where they will play Wednesday night.

For only the third time in his young career, Ventura went at least seven innings without allowing a run. It was only the second time in his 37 starts that he pitched that deep into a game and gave up only three hits. He became the first Royals starter to win a postseason game while pitching seven scoreless innings without allowing more than three hits. About all he didn’t do was strike out more than he walked, issuing five walks while striking out four.

MORE ON THE ROYALS

Three of those walks came in the third inning, which was understandable since he had spent about half an hour in the dugout watching the Royals put up a seven-spot. Ventura struck out Travis Ishikawa on three pitches to start the third but then he walked nine-hole hitter Brandon Crawford and leadoff man Gregor Blanco.

After a visit from pitching coach Dave Eiland, Ventura jumped ahead of Joe Panik with a 1-2 count, but Panik fouled off five pitches with two strikes and earned an 11-pitch walk that loaded the bases.

With Buster Posey coming up, the Giants had a chance to get back into the game but, swinging on the first pitch, the All-Star catcher grounded into an inning-ending double play.

"You’re not going to give your best hitter the ‘take’ there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "If he gets a pitch he can handle, gets you back in the game."

But the Giants did not come close to getting back in the game again. Ventura allowed four more baserunners over the next four innings, but all came with two outs and none made it to third base.

As much as pitching with a big lead might have helped Ventura, Yost said the youngster still was primed for a big game.

"That kid had that look in his eye before the game that it didn’t matter what the score was," Yost said. "He was going to go out and throw up a good ballgame for us."

When all that remained were the postgame press conferences, Ventura walked into the interview room and draped a flag of the Dominican Republic over the front of the table. "I’m very proud to be Dominican," he said. "That’s why I brought my flag out here."

He then talked about Taveras, the Cardinals’ promising outfielder who was killed in a car wreck Sunday and buried earlier Tuesday.

"If he was still here, I for sure would be talking to him," Ventura said. "Oscar would be very happy for me and very proud."

It would have been impossible not to be. 

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.