The Baltimore Orioles have already gotten a glimpse of how good Kansas City Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura can be.
The 22-year-old rookie seeks his first win since beating the Orioles in late April when he takes the mound for the host Royals in Thursday night's opener of a four-game set.
Kansas City (20-19) took two of three against Baltimore (20-18) from April 25-27 as Ventura (2-2, 2.34 ERA) opened the series with eight strikeouts over eight innings in a 5-0 victory. The Orioles got only one runner past second base against Ventura, an undrafted free agent from the Dominican Republic.
"That kid's special, to say the least," said Baltimore's Adam Jones, who went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts against Ventura. "He's got a 95-100 (mph fastball), and his changeup I think is the pitch that keeps people off his fastball. His curveball was filthy.
"I don't like to tip my cap, but the guy's got some good stuff and he went out there and showed it tonight."
Ventura is 0-1 in three subsequent starts, though he pitched well while Kansas City's bats were silent his last time out. He gave up three runs on a pair of homers over 6 1-3 innings of a 3-1 loss to Seattle on Saturday.
"You know, he threw the ball really well," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "The pitch to (Justin) Smoak wasn't a bad pitch, it was down and in that he got the head out on. The pitch to (Dustin) Ackley was a changeup that he drove into the seats. But outside of that, it was OK."
Kansas City's loss in his last start was one of just two for the team over the last eight games. The Royals beat Colorado 3-2 on Wednesday for a sweep of a two-game set as Mike Moustakas hit a three-run double in the second inning.
Scheduled to get the ball for the Orioles is left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (4-2, 3.95), who started Baltimore's only victory against the Royals in the April series at Camden Yards. He allowed two runs in seven innings before the Orioles won 3-2 in 10.
Chen has gone 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA since that outing after working a season high-tying seven innings in a 4-3 victory over Houston on Friday. He gave up two runs with four strikeouts and a walk.
The Orioles also beat the Astros on Saturday but have since lost a season high-tying four straight, including a three-game sweep by Detroit that concluded with Wednesday's 7-5 defeat.
Baltimore finally put some runs on the board after scoring four times in the previous three games. Nelson Cruz hit his 11th home run and Jones went 3 for 5 with an RBI to extend his hitting streak to nine games.
"We're not going to focus on what happened in bad situations," Cruz said. "We're going to focus on whatever we did good on a daily basis, and that can get you going through the season."
Kansas City's Billy Butler is 8 for 15 with two homers and two doubles when facing Chen, while Eric Hosmer is 6 for 14 with a pair of homers.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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