Yost sticks with Yo into troublesome sixth

Yost sticks with Yo into troublesome sixth

KANSAS CITY -- Right-hander Yordano Ventura was sitting at 66 pitches on Saturday when he returned to the bump to face the heart of Toronto's lineup in the sixth inning, the same frame that's given him trouble in the past.

Trouble found Ventura again, and quickly, in Kansas City's 6-3 win in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. But manager Ned Yost kept with the flamethrower -- even after he issued a walk to Jose Bautista following Josh Donaldson's leadoff hit, even after a seven-pitch at-bat with Edwin Encarnacion ended in an RBI single, even after Troy Tulowitzki tagged him for a double that scored another run. An ensuing walk to Russell Martin capped Ventura's day at 96 pitches, 30 of them thrown in the sixth.

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That's the inning that often haunts pitchers, who are typically seeing a lineup for the third time at that point. In 2015, Ventura's opponents have mustered an OPS of .640 and .661 the first and second time through the order, respectively. That number jumps to .854 the third time through.

Game Date Matchup
Gm 1 Oct. 16 KC 5, TOR 0
Gm 2 Oct. 17 KC 6, TOR 3
Gm 3 Oct. 19 TOR 11, KC 8
Gm 4 Oct. 20 KC 14, TOR 2
Gm 5 Oct. 21 TOR 7, KC 1
Gm 6 Oct. 23 KC 4, TOR 3

But Yost has already proven that he's not afraid to stay with his starter when everyone else thinks he shouldn't. On Friday, he watched Edinson Volquez battle his way through a grueling 37-pitch sixth inning and emerge unscathed.

On Saturday, Yost liked what he saw from Ventura going into the same inning, which gave him reason to stick with him as long as he did.

"I thought he threw the ball great," Yost said. "We stayed with him in the sixth inning because we felt like his stuff was good, but he battled his command. He kind of abandoned his fastball a little bit in that inning, facing the meat of the order, started going a little bit soft.

"When Yordano is going really, really well, it's because he's commanding his secondary pitches. And today he was kind of battling that a little bit. The fastball was extremely good, with good command on it. And he kind of got in trouble there with his offspeed stuff and struggled to command it. Outside of that, I thought he pitched great."

Right-hander Luke Hochevar limited the damage with two quick outs in relief of Ventura, who exited with three runs, eight hits, two walks and six strikeouts to his name in 5 1/3 innings ahead of his club's five-run rally in the seventh. He has a 6.57 ERA this postseason.

Hochevar gets Royals out of jam

"Even when I went to get Ventura, I told Yordano he was frustrated with himself," Yost said. "I'm like, 'Look, we're going to get you off the hook here. Hoch, you hold them right here. We're going to score some runs. We're going to make this game really, really interesting.'"

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.