Ventura's final '13 start ends abruptly after homers
Rookie righty allows first three blasts of career, exits after fourth
CHICAGO -- Yordano Ventura's third start for the Royals wasn't quite so easy.
Ventura, Kansas City's prized pitching prospect, was rocked for three home runs in a 6-5 loss to the White Sox on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field. A total of seven homers -- Mike Moustakas, Billy Butler and Salvador Perez connected for the Royals -- accounted for all the runs in the game.
A rookie right-hander, Ventura gave up just one run in 5 2/3 innings in each of his first two big league starts.
"He wasn't as sharp as he has been. Lot of homers. The ball was flying," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You know, it was warm and kind of humid out there, and the ball was really flying."
With two out in the White Sox second inning, Marcus Semien and Jordan Danks launched back-to-back home runs into the left-field bleachers for a 2-0 lead. Those were the first homers permitted by Ventura in his brief career.
But not the last.
Adam Dunn pounded a two-run shot to center field in the third inning. His 34th homer came with Gordon Beckham, who singled, on base. The White Sox were pouncing on Ventura's best pitch: a fastball.
"I was not surprised, because here, the hitters are very good and they make an adjustment. If you leave the ball up, it's going to go," Ventura said.
That was his primary problem.
"He was a little up," said his catcher, Perez. "He was throwing high, and they were ready for the fastball. That's going to happen -- you're going to have to learn."
Ventura was lifted after four innings. He gave up four runs, six hits and one walk, throwing 76 pitches.
Erik Johnson, the White Sox rookie right-hander, made his fifth start and captivated the 22,235 fans by taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning. But with one out, Moustakas emphatically put an end to that with a home run into the right-field stands. It was his 12th this season.
The home-run trend continued in the sixth inning. Eric Hosmer, the Royals' top hitter at .302, singled, and Butler belted a two-run homer to left field. His 15th blast cut the White Sox lead to 4-3.
"This park's a good park to hit in," Butler said. "Definitely in the Central, it's the best park to hit in for us, at least dimensions-wise. If you hit a ball in the air and hit it good, it's going to go out."
After Perez singled and Moustakas walked, Johnson was taken out.
"I just think he got tired," Butler said. "We started to make him work longer at-bats, and he started leaving some pitches up -- that's all that happened."
The White Sox retaliated in the seventh inning with what turned out to be the deciding blow. Reliever Louis Coleman walked Beckham and was replaced by Tim Collins to create a matchup that, to Yost, was a "no-brainer." Collins faced left-handed-hitting Conor Gillaspie.
"Left-on-left -- look at the numbers," Yost said. "Gillaspie's hitting .153 against lefties, and Tim's been really good out of the 'pen for us. The pitch wasn't horrible. The pitch was down. He tried to hit the corner, and it came back toward the middle a little bit."
Gillaspie ripped a two-run homer over the right-field wall to give the White Sox a 6-3 advantage.
But the Royals weren't through, either. Butler singled off Matt Lindstrom in the eighth and Perez hammered a two-run homer to left-center field, cutting the Sox lead to 6-5.
In the ninth, White Sox closer Addison Reed got two outs, but walked Alex Gordon, and pinch-runner Chris Getz stole second base. Reed also went to a 3-2 count on Emilio Bonifacio, but struck him out with Hosmer waiting on deck.
"Keep battling, keep pushing it. That's what our guys do so well," Yost said. "Had a chance to tie it up there in the ninth. Gordo with a big walk, Getzy with a big stolen base. I felt if we could just get Hoz to the plate, something special was going to happen. We just couldn't do it."
The victory meant that the White Sox, with 98 losses, will avoid their first 100-loss season since 1970, even if they lose Sunday's finale.
"Yeah, it's good to get a win in front of a good crowd too," Semien said. "It's a great feeling. I'm proud of Erik too for getting another win under his belt. Just happy with how we battled."
And the loss meant Ventura left his first Major League stint with an 0-1 record and a 3.52 ERA for three games. He'll next be seen in Spring Training, trying to crack the Royals' starting rotation.
"If they want me to fight for a job, I'll do it, and whatever they decide, I'll be happy about it," he said with the help of Ervin Santana, translating from Spanish.
Santana, of course, is a pending free agent and could create an opening for Ventura by going elsewhere. At any rate, Ventura was asked if he could convince Santana to stay with K.C.
"Probably," he said. Both he and Santana smiled.