Fuel on the fire: Royals’ tense weekend series continues with Ventura’s ejection
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The ball followed Yordano Ventura, wherever he went.
When Ventura walked toward the first-base line, the ball that had just clanked off Brett Lawrie’s elbow rolled along with him. When Salvador Perez lifted the ball from the infield grass, it ended up in Ventura’s chest and eventually in his grasp. When Ventura was escorted off the field by first-base umpire Greg Gibson, he did so with the ball firmly in his right hand.
What follows Ventura next, though, is anyone’s guess after he nailed Lawrie with a 99-mph, potentially vengeful fastball during the Royals’ 5-0 loss to Oakland on Saturday night.
Ventura was immediately ejected by home-plate umpire Jim Joyce after he hit Lawrie, whose at-bat came directly after Josh Reddick took Ventura deep with a three-run homer. The at-bat also came one night after Lawrie’s slide injured Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar.
In Friday’s seventh inning, Lawrie slid late into second base, attempting to break up a possible double play. But his slide came slightly late and to the third-base side of the bag, allowing his cleats to clip Escobar’s ankle and twist his knee. Escobar missed Saturday’s game with a mild knee sprain.
Joyce, given Friday’s events and Saturday’s circumstances, deemed the ejection "necessary." Now Ventura could face further discipline from the league, possibly in the form of a suspension.
Ventura did not comment on the pitch or a possible suspension.
While Lawrie calmly sauntered to first base, Perez latched on to Ventura, ushering him away from the incoming Oakland bench and dragging him away from another conflict. Perez acted similarly in Anaheim, when Ventura and Mike Trout exchanged words at home plate.
"Just trying to get out, you know," Perez said. "No problem, no fight, no nothing. Now we have to wait (to see) if he’s suspended or not."
Perez had a front-row seat to the show where Ventura was the hometown hero and Lawrie was the evil villain. In Lawrie’s first at-bat in the third inning, Perez said he and Lawrie conversed about what happened and what could happen.
"He apologized about what happened yesterday," Perez said. "Play the game the right way, you know. I’m 100 percent sure if something happens to the other team, the manager is going to do the same thing.
"I said, ‘All right, everything’s good.’ The only thing I could tell you right now is that we’re going to play the game the right way. We’re going to protect our guy."
So the protection came on a second-pitch, four-seam fastball directly to Lawrie’s unguarded elbow. Lawrie did not stare or glare at Ventura. His eyes stayed forward, aimed at first base before cracking a smile midway up the line.
"I can blow up right here, or I can just take it and walk to first base and let him get in trouble and let it get the better of him," Lawrie said. "What’s the crowd want me to do right there? They want me to blow up and create a huge scene, but why fuel the fire? Why dump another thing of gasoline on it when I can just put a smile on? I was on first base, got to be on first base, and we won the game."
Oakland won because of Ventura’s nightmarish fourth inning, when he gave up five runs on four hits, walking a batter and hitting Lawrie. Of the 63 pitches he threw Saturday, only 32 were strikes.
"He just really lost command. He was behind in the count, just struggled with his command the entire night," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "His ball-to-strike ratio was about 50-50, which is not like him and was just kind of all over the place. … Stuff was good, just location dogged him tonight."
Ventura had cruised through the first three innings unscathed, allowing just a walk to Ike Davis, who was erased one batter later on a double play.
Yohan Pino came in to pitch for the Royals after Ventura departed and threw 4 2/3 innings of shutout ball, surrendering just three hits on the same day he was called up from the minors.