KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Royals turn to a 23-year-old rookie to save their season, but not just any 23-year-old rookie: the hardest-throwing starting pitcher in the major leagues.
Yordano Ventura gets the ball Tuesday night with the Royals trailing 3-2 in the World Series, the same position they were in when they sent Charlie Leibrandt to the mound against St. Louis 29 years ago. Kansas City won 2-1 that night on pinch-hitter Dane Iorg's two-run single in the ninth after a blown call by first base umpire Don Denkinger, and the Royals went on to blow out the Cardinals 11-0 a day later for their only title.
“We have a lot of confidence in Ventura. We have confidence that we will win every time he takes the mound,” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “We know we can do it. We're a confident group. But we can't do anything without winning Game 6. We're excited to get back home, where we feed off the fans and that energy.”
In a matchup of Game 2 starters, the Giants go with 33-year-old Jake Peavy. Ventura, whose fastball averaged 98 mph this season, didn't get a decision in the second game, allowing two runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings before Royals manager Ned Yost went to his hard-throwing HDH relief trio. Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland combined to allow one hit â€” Brandon Crawford's two-out single in the ninth â€” and the Royals won 7-2.
Peavy took the loss, giving up four runs and six hits in five innings-plus. He is seeking his first World Series win â€” he got a decision for Boston in Game 3 last year.
“He's one of the tough guys out there on the mound,” Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval said. “He wants to finish it Tuesday.”
The second all-wild card World Series has followed the pattern of the first in 2002. The Giants won the opener on the road, lost the next two games and won two in a row to take a 3-2 lead. San Francisco opened a 5-0 lead in Game 6 at Anaheim but lost 6-5, and the Angels won Game 7 the following night.
Yost hopes history repeats and Ventura is energized by the Kauffman Stadium crowd.
“The place is going to be absolutely crazy,” he said. “We've got to walk the tightrope now without a net, but our guys aren't afraid of walking the tightrope without a net. We fall off and we're dead. But we win Tuesday, nobody's got a net: It's going to be winner take all. So we think it's going to be fun.”
San Francisco's Tim Hudson and Kansas City's Jeremy Guthrie would be the likely Game 7 starters if the Series is extended to Wednesday. And lurking is Madison Bumgarner, who pitched a four-hit shutout to win Game 5 on Sunday. Bumgarner, 4-0 in Series play with a record-low 0.29 ERA, could come out of the bullpen on two days' rest for what would be his first relief appearance since throwing two scoreless innings in Game 6 of the 2010 NL Championship Series.
He wouldn't estimate how long he could go.
“I'm not a big pitch-count guy,” he said. “So as long as you keep getting outs and you feel good, you should stay out there.”