Yordano Ventura gets a lot of press for being a 23-year-old starting pitcher with a 100 MPH fastball. Not that such attention is unwarranted – it clearly is, since Ventura’s a specimen of a pitcher and has that obvious top-of-the-rotation potential. We all know how good he can be. We all also know that he was outpitched by Roenis Elias last night, and right now that’s the most exciting Ventura fun fact of them all.
This was essentially a “pitcher’s duel” between two guys who have combined to throw just under 200 total major league innings. The top prospect versus the out-of-nowhere success story, and it was the less-heralded guy who won the day. This was Roenis Elias leading the Mariners to their 40th win of the year: 6.2 innings, five strikeouts, two walks, five hits, one run. Yordano Ventura, leading the Royals to their 36th loss: seven innings, six strikeouts, two walks, six hits, two runs. Similar lines, but Ventura allowed a home run. A lot of the time, a home run can mean all the difference. It did in this game.
Mike Zunino is the same age as Yordano Ventura, and he’s already an elite defensive catcher in the major leagues. It’s so easy to watch him bat and become frustrated by his all-swings-all-the-time approach, but it’s also easy to forget that he’s 23. At arguably the most important defensive position, Zunino excells. And sometimes his swing connects, and he’s allowed to remind us of his tremendous raw power. Tonight that power was the difference, as his solo shot in the seventh tilted the game in the Mariners favor.
It’s not like all he did was homer – Zunino doubled leading off the fifth and scored when Willie Bloomquist hit a two-bagger of his own. Both Mariners runs were in large part due to Mike Zunino’s extra base prowess. He’s awesome, even if he’s still got plenty of improving to do. If he ever learns to take a walk, he’ll have the tools to be a superstar.
Elias started off scary, getting his first five outs in the air while allowing two singles, a walk, and a hit batsman. A run scored during all of this, but it would be his first and last on the day. Lorenzo Cain struck out swinging to end the second, and that was the beginning of the end for Kansas City. He settled down and pitched a strong game. The win pushed the Mariners ahead of the Royals in the standings and definitively ended KC’s run as baseball’s hottest squad.
The Red Sox are coming to town! Boston won the World Series last year, as you might recall. This year they’re cruising through a sub-.500 season and are seemingly aiming for fourth place. The pitching’s been there, but the offense has completely dissolved, as more or less the same cast of characters from their championship team is posting an 89 wRC+, compared to last year’s MLB-leading 115. At 7:10 tonight Felix Hernandez faces off against John Lackey, who somehow has been one of the league’s best pitchers again. Nice little career revitalization there. Felix Day! Happy Felix Day!