Ventura escapes fifth with help from Moose
Moustakas snares Donaldson's scorching liner for huge out
KANSAS CITY -- Royals flamethrower Yordano Ventura may have temporarily lost the strike zone in the fifth inning, but he never lost his manager's faith. Ventura rewarded Ned Yost's trust by traversing murky territory in a one-run game and working around a pair of walks with help from Mike Moustakas' golden glove work to keep his club on top of the Blue Jays in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series en route to a 4-3 win to advance to the World Series.
"It was an important inning for me, mainly because I had those two walks," Ventura said. "But I never got out of my rhythm. I said, 'I have to get out of this inning. The team needs me, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give everything I have, and we're going to win.'"
Ventura wasn't wrong, doing his part to turn his prophecy into a reality with a little help from his friends.
Clinging to a 2-1 lead, Ventura issued consecutive free passes to Russell Martin and Kevin Pillar on 10 pitches to begin the fifth, prompting Yost to get right-hander Luke Hochevar throwing in the bullpen with the top of the order looming.
Hochevar never left his post, though. Ventura got Ryan Goins to fly out to center field, with Lorenzo Cain doing his part in hastily returning the ball to the infield to hold both runners in place. Leadoff man Ben Revere sent another ball high into the air on the first pitch he saw from Ventura, this one finding the glove of left fielder Alex Gordon for the second out to bring AL MVP Award candidate Josh Donaldson to the plate.
Considering Ventura's well-documented struggles when facing a lineup a third time through the order -- an .854 OPS allowed during the regular season -- this would've arguably been an opportune time for Yost to turn the ball over to his formidable bullpen. But Ventura stayed put, and his first pitch to Donaldson resulted in a screaming line drive nabbed by a diving Moustakas at third base, making an escape artist out of Ventura.
Donaldson hadn't even finished his swing when the ball reached Moustakas' glove.
"That's what third base is, it's a reactionary position, and I was just able to get my glove in the right spot and make the catch," said Moustakas, who homered in the second and singled and scored in the seventh.
It was Donaldson's hardest-hit ball of the year, according to Statcast™, a 114-mph liner that could've easily journeyed to Gordon.
"Bang-bang. Donaldson smoked it," Gordon said, "but Moose with his skills over there just made a good play like he always does."