Tigers let effectively wild Ventura off the hook

Detroit scores one run off Royals righty despite getting 12 baserunners against him

Tigers let effectively wild Ventura off the hook

KANSAS CITY -- Royals starter Yordano Ventura came out firing 98-99 mph fastballs on Saturday with seemingly little idea where they were going. That would normally be a setup for disaster against a Tigers lineup with as many veteran hitters.

The problem for the Tigers in Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Royals was that they didn't know where Ventura's pitches might be going, either. When he put them where he wanted, he was close to unhittable. He made enough of those pitches that the Tigers couldn't find the hit they needed to capitalize.

"I would say effectively wild describes his outing today," Tigers catcher James McCann said. "But at the end of the day, he found a way to get it done in some big spots and keep us from getting the big hit when we needed it."

It didn't make Saturday's loss any more frustrating than others, McCann said, not at a time of year when every win and loss looms large for a team in the postseason hunt. But it didn't exactly ease their minds, either.

Between six hits and six walks, the Tigers had a dozen baserunners in Ventura's six innings. Their lone run against him scored on a fielder's choice grounder after J.D. Martinez led off the fourth inning with a double and moved to third on Tyler Collins' single. The latter was their lone hit in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

According to research on baseball-reference, that made Ventura the first pitcher to allow 12 or more baserunners against the Tigers and not allow multiple runs since Andy Pettitte tossed 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball against Detroit for the Yankees on Aug. 11, 2013. Ventura is the first to do so over six or more innings since Tampa Bay's Paul Wilson did it over eight innings of one-run ball on April 3, 2002.

"We had opportunities tonight," said Ian Kinsler, who scored Detroit's other run with a leadoff homer in the ninth off Brooks Pounders. "We just couldn't get a big hit when we needed it. And that's really what it came down to. We got on base plenty against him. We just couldn't get a hit to drive in some runs tonight."

Said manager Brad Ausmus: "He had trouble throwing strikes against us. For some reason, he's pitched well against us."

Ventura has three wins and two no-decisions against the Tigers this season; the Royals are 4-1 when he faces Detroit this year. In each of those other four starts, though, he struck out at least five, walking just six batters total. This time, the strikeout-walk ratio flipped.

Twice on Saturday, Ventura gave up back-to-back walks to Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez -- the first time to lead off the second inning, then to load the bases with two outs in the fifth. Both times, Ventura followed by using a 98-99 mph fastball to induce first-pitch groundouts from Justin Upton.

What followed Upton's groundout in the second inning demonstrated the effectively wild description, and made it an inning to haunt Detroit. After spotting a first-pitch fastball, Ventura's 0-1 changeup to Collins hit him on his front foot and bounced to the backstop. Since Collins couldn't hold his check swing on the pitch, however, the contact was moot, making it a strike and putting Collins in an 0-2 count. A called third strike left it up to McCann, whose line drive to right field found Paulo Orlando to end the threat.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.