NEW YORK -- The Royals had a premium opportunity to put a stranglehold on the Mets in this World Series, but Yordano Ventura squandered it, more than once. Provided with two early leads in Game 3, the mercurial right-hander forgot to cover first base, gave up a hit to the opposing pitcher, surrendered two home runs and recorded only 10 outs at Citi Field on Friday night.
Ventura faced a team that had managed one extra-base hit in 88 plate appearances over the first two games and was charged with five runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings, setting up a 9-3 loss that trimmed Kansas City's Series lead to 2-1 and breathed some life back into New York.
David Wright, batting .171 in the postseason, lifted a two-run homer to left-center field in the first. Curtis Granderson, with one hit in the Fall Classic, lined a two-run homer to right in the third. And Royals manager Ned Yost went to his bullpen with two on and one out in the fourth. It marked the third-shortest outing by a Royals starter in World Series history.
"He just wasn't sharp today," Yost said. "Fastball velocity was down."
Oh yeah, that.
Ventura threw a 98-mph fastball to his first hitter and a 96-mph fastball to his second one, then never came close to reaching that mark again. For the rest of the night, his four-seam fastball topped out at 94 mph and sat mostly in the 92- to 93-mph range. His average velocity was 94.7 mph. Heading in, it was 96.9 mph this season.
"I don't know why," Ventura said. "I just noticed when I came in. I saw the radar or looked at some video. I feel great out there. I don't know why my velocity was down."
Yost felt the crisp conditions might've had something to do with it, considering game-time temperatures were 52 degrees with winds blowing out at 13 mph.
Ventura said it "wasn't a factor at all."
"I felt great out there," he repeated. "I don't know why the velocity was down. It was just part of it, I guess."
Ventura was given a 1-0 lead in the first, then immediately gave it right back. He allowed a leadoff single to Granderson, followed with an 0-1, chest-high fastball to Wright and didn't even bother to turn his head as it sailed 385 feet to left-center field.
Ventura was then given a 3-2 lead in the second and gave it up in the third. He hung an 0-2 curveball to Mets starter Noah Syndergaard -- with nine hits in 47 at-bats all year -- and allowed a sharp single to right field. The next batter, Granderson, pounced on a 2-1 fastball out over the heart of the plate and hit it 107 mph, barely over the right-field wall.
"I think he was leaving the ball up too much," Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar said. "That's why they were able to hit some balls hard. Those things happen."
Ventura made an initial break toward home and stayed frozen as Conforto notched a run-scoring infield single.
"My instinct was to watch the ball right there and kind of just looked at Hos to see if he was going to go home or something," Ventura said. "I just got caught watching the play."
In the workout that preceded Game 3, Yost called Ventura's numbers "deceiving," because he held his own against a menacing Blue Jays lineup in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series -- one run in 5 1/3 innings -- and because the Royals had won seven of his eight career postseason starts.
But there's no hiding from the stats now. Ventura now has a 6.43 ERA in this year's postseason, giving up 15 runs on 27 hits -- five of them homers -- in 21 innings.
His next start lines up for a potential Game 7.
"I think we can finish it off right here," Ventura said. "There's two more games here, and I know that we can get it done here. I don't expect it to go back to Kansas City."