World Series Game 2 preview: After Giants rout, Royals turn to Ventura
Start Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Series: Giants lead 1-0
Status: The last team to lose Game 1 of the World Series and come back to win the championship was the 2009 Yankees. Since 1987, just three other teams have done the same (the 1992 Blue Jays, '96 Yankees and 2002 Angels). The good news for the Royals is that three of the four teams to rebound from a Game 1 loss over that span had home field advantage in the Series, as Kansas City does in this one. Of course, if we're going to use artificially limited samples, how about this: In each of the last six postseasons, at least one team has come back from a Game 1 loss to win a best-of-seven series. That no team has pulled that trick yet this October might suggest that we're due.
If we take the largest and most complete sample — all 164 best-of-seven series in postseason history — we see that the team that has lost Game 1 has won 35 percent of those series, exactly as many as they would have won if the remaining games had been determined by coin-flips. That's not particularly encouraging for the Royals, but it's not quite as damning as the recent history of World Series Games 1 might suggest.
Even if the Royals were to lose again in Game 2, falling behind 0-2 at home is not a death sentence for a World Series team, as Royals fans should well know. Three teams in World Series history have lost the first two games at home then rallied to win the Series. The first of those was the 1985 Royals. The Mets did it the next year, and the Yankees won the 1996 Series in six games after losing the first two games at home by a combined score of 16-1, most of that coming in a 12-1 Game 1 loss that made Kansas City's 7-1 defeat Tuesday night look like a squeaker.
Matchups: I listed Royals Game 2 starter Yordano Ventura as my X-factor for this series in our staff predictions on Tuesday, and this is why. K.C. is sending Ventura to the mound hoping to salvage a split at home before heading to San Francisco, but it doesn't don't know for sure just how healthy its rookie's right arm is.
Ventura's Game 2 start against the Angels in the Division Series was the best starting pitching performance by a Royal in this postseason (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K), but in his Game 2 start against the Orioles in the American League Championship Series, he struggled with his control, walking three men in the second inning to set up a Baltimore run. He left the game with two outs in the sixth due to tightness in his pitching shoulder. Kansas City said the tightness was minor, and Ventura has had 10 days off since then, but the real test will come when he cranks it back up in the most important game of his young career.
One added advantage Ventura will have in this game is that none of the Giants' hitters have ever faced him, so tonight will be their first exposure to his triple-digit heat, filthy high-90s sinker and mid-90s cutter, as well as his curveball and changeup. BrooksBaseball.net's description of Ventura's repertoire uses the phrase "borderline unfair" with regard to each of the first three pitches listed above. If Ventura's on his game tonight, you'll see why.
Ventura's mound opponent, Jake Peavy, throws the same five pitches in name only (in order of frequency: four-seamer, cutter, sinker, curve, change), adding a slider. None of Peavy's pitches, which top out in the low-90s, are particularly impressive, but Peavy's deep repertoire, veteran guile and improved control since being traded to San Francisco in late July have been able to keep opponents off-balance. He has allowed a total of just two runs in his two starts in this postseason, but lasted just 9 2/3 innings across those two starts, walking six against five strikeouts, and he is still looking for his first career quality start in the postseason after eight tries.
Having pitched in the AL Central as part of the White Sox's rotation as recently as last July, Peavy has extensive histories against many of the Royals' starters, and they're not pretty. Alcides Escobar is 9-for-22 (.409) with a triple and two home runs against Peavy. Alex Gordon is 10-for-28 (.357) with two doubles and a home run. Billy Butler, who had faced Peavy more than any other Royal, is 14-for-33 (.424) with three walks and three home runs in 37 plate appearances. Peavy has handled lefties Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas well over 24 and 25 PA, respectively, but Escobar, Gordon and Butler have hit a combined .398/.432/.675 against him, with six home runs in 88 plate appearances.
Swinging Gate: Because Game 1 was a blowout, the only high-leverage reliever to pitch for either team was Giants lefty Javier Lopez, who needed just nine pitches to work a scoreless eighth, giving up a single to the righthanded Escobar but erasing him via a double-play off the bat of lefty Nori Aoki. The Royals' Big Three of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland have thus all had six days off coming into Game 2. Likewise, San Francisco's Sergio Romo had had six days of rest, and Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla have had five days off.
With yet another off-day on Thursday, neither manager should have any qualms about not only emptying their bullpen, but also using their key arms for more than the typical three outs. For Royals manager Ned Yost, who has shown a willingness to extend Herrera and Davis this postseason, that means that he could go to his Big Three as early as the fifth inning if necessary. Peavy's history suggests that Bruce Bochy will likely be dipping into his 'pen no later than the sixth inning.
Turn the Page: The Royals went 23 days between loses, suffering their final regular-season defeat on Sept. 27 at the hands of the White Sox in Chicago, and their first postseason loss in Tuesday's Game 1. The last time they lost consecutive games was more than a month ago, on Sept. 19 and 20 at home against the Tigers. They haven't lost three straight since August.
Stuck Clutch: The Royals haven't had a hit with a runner in scoring position since Game 2 of the ALCS and have scored a total of just five runs in their last three games, all of them played at Kauffman Stadium. Remarkably, they won the first two of those games, a pair of 2-1 victories, to complete their ALCS sweep of the Orioles. After scoring just one more run on Tuesday night, however, one has to wonder if Kansas City's offense can get off the mat to give us a competitive World Series.
The Royals' lone run on Tuesday night came on a solo home run by Salvador Perez in the seventh, the team's first RBI hit of any kind since Lorenzo Cain singled home Escobar from third base in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the ALCS. The only other inning in which they got a runner past first base Tuesday night was the third, when they put men on second and third with no outs via an error and a Mike Moustakas double, only to have Madison Bumgarner strike out Escobar and Aoki before walking Cain and getting Hosmer to ground out to strand all three runners.