Lone blast blisters Ventura's K-heavy outing
Rookie starter fans nine; Perez avoids injury scare on sac fly
KANSAS CITY -- Funny thing about the wind that was buffeting Kauffman Stadium during the first few innings on Thursday night.
Well, not so funny from the Royals' viewpoint. If the wind hadn't been blowing in from left field, they'd have probably had a grand slam and won the game for Yordano Ventura.
But the wind was blowing across the field toward right, and that did nothing to deter the 406-foot blast that Baltimore's Nelson Cruz put over the right-center fence, a two-run homer that gave the Orioles a 2-1 victory.
Ventura faced Cruz four times when he shut out the Orioles for eight innings and won, 5-0, three weeks ago in Baltimore. Cruz, after being drilled by a 98-mph fastball in his first at-bat, did absolutely nothing against the fireballing kid. And, in their first face-off in Kansas City, Ventura struck him out.
So in the fourth inning after Chris Davis walked -- Ventura's only walk of the night -- up came Cruz again.
"He's never swung at the first pitch, so I wanted to get ahead in the count and throw a good pitch, but he swung and hit it out," Ventura said.
Yep, Cruz jumped on the first pitch this time.
"[Ventura] had great stuff today," Cruz said. "I just tried to be aggressive. He was throwing mostly fastball first-pitch strikes the first time through. I was looking fastball and I got it."
Maybe Cruz, a strong guy, didn't need any help for his 12th home run, but by chance, the wind was blowing just that way.
"He threw a good fastball to Nelson Cruz," manager Ned Yost said. "It was up and over the middle of the plate, and he ambushed it. But he hit it in a place where you could hit it out of the ballpark, from right-center field to right."
The Royals' Danny Valencia wasn't so fortunate in the bottom half of the fourth.
Against left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, the Royals loaded the bases with one out on singles by Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon. Valencia then cranked a high drive toward the left-field bullpen.
"When the ball left the bat, my heart skipped a beat," Chen said. "I thought it was going to go out."
So did Valencia.
"Yeah," he said. "The wind was tough. Even in BP, the wind was blowing straight in. Nobody was hitting the ball over the fence. It's very, very frustrating that the ball didn't go out. We scored a run but, at the same time, it would have been four runs there and we'd have won the game."
The ball dropped into the glove of left fielder David Lough, allowing Hosmer to score after the catch for the Royals' only run.
Perez also advanced, diving into third base just ahead of Lough's throw. But Perez jammed his neck into Manny Machado's knee and stayed down in pain. After assistant trainer Kyle Turner checked him out, Perez stayed in the game and seemed to be OK.
"Sal's tough as nails," Yost said. "He didn't want to come out of that game. It didn't affect anything he did. It was just a little sore."
But that was it in the scoring department. Johnny Giavotella flied out and the inning was over.
"We couldn't even drive a ball to the warning track in batting practice," Yost said. "When Danny hit that ball, the wind was still blowing. If he'd have hit it an at-bat later, it'd been a grand slam."
The Royals' last chance came in the sixth, when Perez walked and Gordon singled with one out. Chen was pulled in favor of right-handed sidewheeler Darren O'Day, but Yost decided not to pinch-hit left-handed Mike Moustakas for the right-handed Valencia.
"Well, of course, I was thinking about it," Yost said, "but they've got three lefties in the 'pen and you knew somewhere down the road that spot was going to come up again, so we gave Danny the opportunity to see what he could do there."
After the Cruz home run, Ventura retired 10 straight batters -- seven by strikeouts. In fact, he fanned six in a row in the fifth and sixth innings.
"After the home run, I got a little more aggressive in the strike zone and I felt like all my pitches were working really well," Ventura said. "I just wanted to be more aggressive after the home run and I pitched like that until they took me out."
Ventura left after one out and two singles in the seventh. Tim Collins took over and got a strikeout but needed help from his Gold Glove left fielder to end the threat. On Nick Markakis' single, Gordon threw out J.J. Hardy trying to score for his fourth assist of the season and 60th since he started playing the outfield in 2010.
Louis Coleman gave up two singles to start the eighth and needed help from Kelvin Herrera, who came in for two strikeouts and an infield out.
"Herrera was dynamite tonight," Yost said. "We were hoping to get through that inning with Coleman, but when the first two guys got on, we knew we had to keep the score right there, and we were looking for the heat coming in and Kelvin did a great job. ... He's on a nice roll for us right now, as is Aaron Crow."
Crow pitched a perfect ninth for his 19th straight appearance without an earned run. That broke the record set by Coleman last year. Herrera is on the same track with 11 straight scoreless outings.
Ventura, in his 6 1/3 innings, had nine strikeouts and the relievers added four for a total of 13, matching a season high. That made an impression on Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
"A lot of these ballparks have giveaways where if you strike out 10 or more, you get pizza or chicken," he said. "That would be a bad investment with their pitching staff."