One day after losing his close friend Oscar Taveras, Yordano Ventura took the mound Tuesday in Game 6 of the World Series and pitched a gem to keep his Kansas City Royals alive for a winner-take-all seventh game against the San Francisco Giants.
As seen in the photo above, Ventura wrote “RIP O.T. #18” on his cap to honor Taveras, who died in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. Taveras, who won the 2011 Midwest League batting title while playing with the Quad Cities River Bandits, was laid to rest Tuesday.
Ventura told reporters that Taveras’ death weighed heavily on his mind, and he still pitched what arguably was the best game of his young career. He gave up three hits and struck out four batters in seven scoreless innings, his only blemish being five walks that were all stranded on the basepaths. The Royals won 10-0.
According to this Associated Press story, Ventura and Taveras bonded while in the Midwest League, despite playing for different teams.
Ventura and Taveras became friends while rocketing through the minor leagues together. They shared a common bond in their Dominican roots, and both were playing far from home — Ventura for Class-A Kane County and Taveras for Midwest League rival Quad Cities.
They would often visit each other, their clubs close enough that they could make the drive easily. When they were promoted, they kept in contact by phone. Then in June, they got to see each other again when the Cardinals and Royals played a two-city interleague series.
Ventura went 4-6 with a 4.27 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 84.1 IP for the Kane County Cougars. Taveras batted .386 with 8 HR and 62 RBI in 78 games with the Quad Cities River Bandits.
Ventura’s cap honoring Taveras was donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame after Tuesday’s game.
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Game 7 of the World Series will be played Wednesday night in Kansas City. I realized during Game 6 that whether the Royals or the Giants win, I will have seen the World Series champions play in person this year.
This is notable to me because I get to attend only a handful of MLB games each year, mostly because the vast majority of my ballpark visits are in the Midwest League. This year I went to three games at Miller Park, two games at Target Field, and two games at Wrigley Field (including the 100th anniversary game). I saw both the Royals and the Giants play against the Milwaukee Brewers, and got to see Yordano Ventura pitch in person for the first time since he was in the Midwest League. Here is a photo I shot of Ventura and Salvador Perez (2009 Burlington Bees) — you can see a couple more in this post.
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One more note from Game 6 of the World Series: Giants RP Hunter Strickland gave up his sixth home run of the postseason, setting a new record for most homers allowed by a pitcher in a single postseason.
On Twitter, Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus noted that Strickland has allowed more home runs this postseason than Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux did during the entire 1994 season (four).
Maddux pitched in the Midwest League in 1985, going 13-9 with a 3.19 ERA, six complete games, and 125 strikeouts in 186 IP for the Peoria Chiefs. I took a look at some early scouting reports on Maddux, including one from the year he pitched for the Chiefs, in this post.