Before every game of the ALCS and NLCS, FindTheBest will break down the pitching matchup to see which team has the edge on the mound.
Bud Norris was only told he’d start in Game 3 of the ALDS over Miguel Gonzalez the day prior on the plane back to Baltimore. After outdueling David Price by shutting out the Tigers for 6 1/3 innings, he earned himself another promotion to Game 2 of the ALCS (though that likely also has something to do with the fact that lefty Wei-Yin Chen would fare better away from Camden Yards' short porch in rightfield).
Ventura’s playoff debut, on the other hand, was an inauspicious one. He came on in relief during the Wild-Card Game and gave up a go-ahead three-run homer to the first batter he faced, eventually exiting with an ugly line of two runs allowed and one batter retired. But the Royals came back to win, and Ventura earnestly bounced back three days later with seven innings of one-run ball in Game 2 of the ALDS against the league's best offense.
Ventura has similarly neutralized the powerful O's in his impressive rookie campaign, as the 23-year-old owns a 1.26 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings against them this year. Ventura allowed just two extra-base hits in those two outings — a double to J.J. Hardy, and a homer to Nelson Cruz.
His skill at avoiding bad outings is remarkable for a youngster — his quality start rate (73 percent) ranks sixth in the AL among qualified pitchers, behind only unquestioned aces Jon Lester, Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez, Sonny Gray and Corey Kluber. Norris (39 percent) ranks 36th out of 39 pitchers by the same measurement despite having a nearly identical strikeout rate as Ventura and a better walk rate. For whatever reason, he frequently dials up high pitch counts, and was removed before he could get through six innings in 11 of his 28 starts this year.
Even though both these clubs have vaunted bullpens, Showalter would certainly prefer having Norris avoiding the same fate in his start this series.
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