MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Rookie arms deliver in Game 2 ALDS duel

Royals' Ventura, Angels' Shoemaker match each other pitch for pitch before exiting

Rookie arms deliver in Game 2 ALDS duel

ANAHEIM -- Yordano Ventura, the kid from the Dominican Republic with the golden arm, was throwing 100 mph fastballs in the seventh inning. Looking like a new-age Pedro Martinez, Ventura is the best $28,000 investment the Kansas City Royals ever made.

Matt Shoemaker, shut down for 18 days with an oblique injury, was hitting corners up and down the strike zone. The man from Michigan kept the Angels in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday night before Eric Hosmer lowered the boom in the 11th inning of a 4-1 victory that has the homeward-bound Royals one win away from the AL Championship Series.

"This is playoff baseball," the Angels' Albert Pujols said. "It's about pitching. Our starting pitching has given us opportunities to win games."

The Royals' arms and gloves having stonewalled them. Here stand the Angels, with the best regular-season record in the Majors, on the brink of elimination. The most productive offense in the game has produced three runs in 22 playoff innings.

  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video

"We just have to win [Game 3] on Sunday," Mike Trout, hitless in the series, said.

Ventura and Shoemaker were gone when Hosmer unloaded his two-run blast, but the rookie right-handers managed to deliver the gripping duel that escaped a pair of more heralded parties north on Interstate 5, at Dodger Stadium, in the National League Division Series.

Unlike Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright in a slugfest taken by the Cards, Ventura and Shoemaker were in full command, keeping their game at 1-1 by frustrating hitters with power, command and guile.

"That was some electric stuff," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said when asked about Ventura. "He's got a great arm, and Matty matched him pitch for pitch. We just couldn't get it done late."

Shoemaker showed no rust, filling up the strike zone.

"He did great," teammate David Freese said. "It's kind of, here we go again, Shoe. It's what he does. It's what he's done all year. And he gave us a chance to win."

The Royals' run off Shoemaker in the second inning was unearned. An error by right fielder Kole Calhoun on Hosmer's leadoff single was cashed in by Alex Gordon with an RBI single.

The Angels finally struck with two down in the sixth. Calhoun atoned for his error with his second single. Trout turned an 0-2 count into a walk, and Pujols lashed a 100-mph heater through the right side of the infield to bring Calhoun home.

"If you're a guy who doesn't throw 100 [mph]," Shoemaker said, grinning, "you wonder what it feels like."

Scioscia credited Shoemaker, equipped with four quality pitches and rare poise, with saving the Angels' season with his brilliant second half. The 28-year-old veteran of six Minor League seasons broke through in storybook fashion, filling a huge void left when good buddy Garrett Richards went down for the season on Aug. 20.

Shoemaker finished 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA, holding opponents to three or fewer earned runs in 18 of his 20 starts. His only bad outing had come against these Royals, who cuffed him around for eight runs on June 27.

Shoemaker's regular season ended on Sept. 15 when he felt the rib-cage strain while dispatching the Mariners. There was concern among the faithful that he wouldn't make it back for the postseason, but he went to work and made it happen.

"Everything was working, for the most part," Shoemaker said. "I was trying to attack the zone and feel I executed it pretty well. My goal every day is to put up zeros and give our team a chance to win."

Ventura, from the resort town of Samana, looked like a guy without a care in the world in the interview room on Thursday.

"Wow, what a job he did," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He threw fastballs at 101 miles an hour, two-seamers at 97 miles an hour. He threw cutters at 96 miles an hour ... threw a couple of great changes and really had a good curveball to keep them off-balance.

"You saw Ventura tonight -- a kid with tremendous composure on the big stage, a kid that competes his heart out with tremendous stuff. He gave us everything he had to give. What an effort."

Signed for $28,000 at 17, Ventura filled out and watched his fastball explode from the high 80s to triple digits by refining his delivery. He was 14-10 in 31 outings with a 3.20 ERA as a rookie, with a ceiling somewhere in the clouds.

"Truthfully, a lot of our more successful signs all that I've been a part of were guys that didn't get a lot of money," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said in reference to Ventura's emergence.

The big money is coming for Ventura, who has the distinct look of an ace.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.