Ventura pitches Royals past Astros in rubber game

Ventura pitches Royals past Astros in rubber game

KANSAS CITY -- Omar Infante and Cheslor Cuthbert each came through with two-out, two-run hits in the first inning and Yordano Ventura delivered seven strong innings to lift the Royals to a 5-1 win over the Astros on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals (59-38) took two of three in the weekend series while scoring all five runs in the opening two innings against American League All-Star starter Dallas Keuchel, who came in with an AL-best 2.12 ERA. The five runs allowed equaled the highest total Keuchel has surrendered this season.

Cuthbert's two-run double

"It's about as good a weekend as it can get," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We got the walk-off win Saturday, the win today, the Johnny Cueto deal today. It doesn't get much better than that."

The Astros (55-45) received an RBI single from Colby Rasmus in the second, but could do nothing more against Ventura, who had been optioned to Triple-A Omaha earlier in the week, only to be immediately brought back because of an elbow injury sustained by Jason Vargas.

Ventura (5-7) got through seven innings with 97 pitches and won for the first time since July 9. He allowed six hits, struck out five and didn't issue a walk. Keuchel (12-5) went 6 2/3 innings and allowed a season-high 10 hits.

The Astros finished 4-2 against the Royals in the regular season and know what to expect should the teams go on to meet in the postseason.

"They're one of the best teams in baseball," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "They have a great record. They are the defending [AL] champions and everybody is chasing them. I'm happy with how we played against them. We match up pretty well."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cain inflicts pain: Center fielder Lorenzo Cain was mired in a 3-for-21 slump when he received a day off on Saturday. He quickly responded with a single in the first and a home run in the second as the Royals built an early four-run cushion.

Cain's solo shot

Cain's home run was his 11th this season. He hit just nine in the last two seasons combined.

"I always knew he would become more of a power hitter," Yost said. "It's just the normal progression of a young hitter."

Ventura bears down: The Astros opened the fifth in promising fashion as Nos. 8 and 9 hitters Jason Castro and Jake Marisnick produced singles. But Ventura rallied to get Jose Altuve, Preston Tucker and Carlos Correa to preserve a 5-1 lead. More >

"Their guy did a pretty good job of pitching with the lead," Hinch said. "He's an emotional pitcher. You give him four or five runs … he had a lot of room for error."

Two-out efficiency: Keuchel looked like he might wiggle out of a big jam in the first, but Infante wouldn't let it happen. After the first three batters singled to load the bases, Keuchel got a couple of forceouts at home. But Infante stroked a two-run single to left and Cuthbert followed with his two-run double. More >

"We were really close to being out of that inning with nothing," Hinch said.

WHAT'S NEXT
Astros: After an off-day on Monday, right-hander Collin McHugh will start the opener of a three-game home set against the Angels on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. McHugh (11-5, 4.25 ERA) has already matched his career high for wins -- going 11-9 in 2014. He has won five of his past seven starts and did not allow more than three earned runs in any of those outings.

Royals: Right-hander Edinson Volquez opens a three-game road set against the Indians on Monday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Volquez (9-5, 3.15 ERA) leads the club with 10 quality starts. He picked up a win over Pittsburgh last Wednesday when he worked 7 2/3 innings and allowed eight hits and one run.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.