The Royals are heading back to the World Series. Last year they did it as underdogs, coming from behind in the Wild Card game and surprising the world with their base running. This year they were bigger favorites, but they needed a big inning when the Astros had them on the ropes. Now they took down Toronto in six games, without losing their cool. Win or lose, they’re a fun team to watch. But what’s so special about Kansas City, anyway? We have one answer: Yordano Ventura, who is as good of a pitcher as he is a hothead.
The Dominican-American pitcher had a tremendous season last year as a rookie. Shaking off his skinny, this-baseball-hat-is-too-big-for-me-look, he pitched so well he won the top spot in the starting rotation at just 24, the main reason being a fastball that frequently flirts with the 100 mph mark. He can throw flames, but sometimes he also throws flames from his mouth. At the start of the season, his temper started to get the best of him, and earned his team an ugly reputation, and his teammates a lot of pitches aimed at them.
In fact, early in the season, he had a three-start stretch in which he required his teammates to get up from the bench to protect him. That infamous set of fights included an ejection for throwing at Brett Lawrie and ended with a seven-game suspension that sure got Ventura thinking. It was so bad he even managed to get poster-boy Mike Trout into an argument!
Besides, he was not pitching up to the hype – the $23 million dollar contract hype, that is. He was sent to the minors on July 21, after having spent almost a month on the disabled list. Then he got lucky: a teammate got injured and he didn’t even have to go down to Omaha with the minor league guys. Victor Baez, field coordinator for the Royals Academy in the Dominican Republic, had some words that got him back on track.
Now it’s the postseason, and it’s a whole different story. Last October, he pitched a gem, going seven innings in Game 6 of the World Series. Last night, he just kept one of the most powerful lineups of the game in check, marking the second time David Price himself couldn’t get one against him. The Blue Jays were trying everything, including some first base coach provocation, to get into his head. Sorry, lesson learned.