One of the most beautiful things about the 162-game MLB season is that there are so many opportunities for the schedule to smile upon baseball fans and give us wildly entertaining pitching matchups.
One of those very matchups happened Tuesday, pitting the league's newest millionaire, Tampa Bay Rays' starter Chris Archer, against fresh-faced flamethrower Yordano Ventura of the Kansas City Royals. Both pitchers lived up to their respective ends of the bargain, resulting in one of the most entertaining games of the young season and a 1-0 Rays win.
Wil Myers was the second person to face Ventura this season. He struck out swinging. The third person to come to the plate against Ventura was Ben Zobrist, and he, too, whiffed. So began the dominant first outing of the season for one of baseball's most exciting rookies.
Ventura shut down the Rays for six innings, allowing zero runs and just two hits, striking out six. Archer was nearly as impressive on the other side, preventing Ventura from picking up his first career win. Still, it was easy to see why Ventura is on the shortlist for early-season Rookie of the Year candidates in the American League.
The entire Ventura arsenal was on display Tuesday night. His fastball sat in the high-90s, and he was able to easily blow it past overmatched hitters. His curveball looked sharper than it did in his three-start run in the majors last year. He even showed an improved changeup, which came in comfortably 8-to-10 mph slower than his heater. He had to labor a bit, throwing 95 pitches in his six innings, but 62 of those went for strikes. He didn't walk a batter, and the Rays never had more than one person on base against him. Simply put, it was as dominant an outing as the Royals realistically could have expected out of the 22-year-old.
Meanwhile, Archer twirled seven shutout innings, scattering six hits and two walks while fanning four batters. The 25-year-old righty has rewarded the Tampa brass that gave him a six-year, $25.5 million contract, one that could ultimately span eight years and net him $43.75 million. Archer found himself in trouble more often than Ventura did Tuesday, but he erased what could have been big innings with two double-play balls. He faced his greatest danger when the Royals loaded the bases with just one out in the sixth, but Archer got Alex Gordon to pop out to shallow left-center, then induced a fielder's choice off the bat of Danny Valencia to end the inning. He came back for one more frame, retiring Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Jarrod Dyson in order. The Rays have perfected the pitching-and-defense routine under Joe Maddon, and the Royals are hoping to ride that same formula to the playoffs this season for the first time since 1985. That was on display for both teams in Kansas City on Tuesday night, with Ventura and Archer taking no-decisions. The Rays got one run off Greg Holland in the top of the ninth, and Grant Balfour held on in the bottom half of the inning to give them a win, but regardless of the result, both teams had to be pleased with what they saw out of their talented young starters.