Royals-White Sox Preview
It wasn't until 5 1/2 years after the Kansas City Royals won the 1985 World Series that Yordano Ventura was born, but the talented rookie should feel confident ahead of Game 162 after playing a key role in the franchise's best season since winning that title.
Now Ventura is hoping everything falls into place so he can pitch in the playoffs.
Kansas City has a chance to force a tie atop the AL Central with a win and some help as it faces the Chicago White Sox on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field.
The Royals (88-73) ended the longest active playoff drought in North American sports by clinching at least a wild-card berth with Friday's 3-1 victory. They missed an opportunity to tie Detroit for the division lead Saturday, though, falling 5-4 to the White Sox after the Tigers were routed 12-3 by Minnesota.
Kansas City still can force a one-game playoff at Comerica Park on Monday if it wins this contest and the Twins beat Detroit for a third straight day. At worst, the Royals will host either Oakland or Seattle in Tuesday's wild-card game.
"We're going to be excited that we got home field advantage," manager Ned Yost said. "But again, it's all going to come down to (Sunday). We'll see what happens. Minnesota is doing a great job playing Detroit."
Playing in the wild-card game leaves the possibility that Ventura (14-10, 3.07 ERA) will be making his final start of 2014 in this contest. He is 5-1 with a 1.60 ERA over his last six starts, doing his best to prove he'll be a valuable asset in the postseason rotation should Kansas City play in the division series.
After giving up one run and three hits in seven innings of a 6-2 win over the White Sox on Sept. 17, the right-hander pitched seven scoreless Tuesday to beat Cleveland 7-1.
"He's a special guy," Yost said. "He has all the makings of being a high-level, upper-tier pitcher in the American League."
The 23-year-old Ventura, the first Royals rookie to win 14 games since Tom Gordon won 17 in 1989, hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last 11 outings.
"He's a competitor," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "It's fun to watch, too. We needed a big outing from him (Tuesday), and the way these starters are throwing, they're feeding off of each other."
Chris Bassitt hasn't been starting very long in the majors, but he'll head into this contest after earning his first big-league victory by pitching 7 2-3 scoreless innings of a 2-0 win over Detroit on Monday.
It was a solid bounce-back outing for Bassitt (1-1, 3.65), who gave up three runs, walked four and threw 94 pitches in just 3 2-3 innings before the White Sox (73-88) rallied to beat the Royals 7-5 in his previous start Sept. 16.
"Some tremendous Bass is what that was," manager Robin Ventura said after the 25-year-old rookie beat the Tigers. "He showed some composure out there, and he competed. That was a nice little outing for him."
Chicago ended a four-game skid Saturday after the club held a pregame ceremony to honor the retiring Paul Konerko. Jose Abreu, a strong candidate to be named AL Rookie of the Year, hit a two-run shot for his 36th homer.