We've had just one seven-game World Series out of the previous 11 -- that was in 2011, when the Cardinals beat the Rangers in that classic Game 6 and then won Game 7 -- so here's hoping this one goes the distance.
Jake Peavy and Yordano Ventura squared off in Game 2. Ventura allowed a leadoff home run to Gregor Blanco but then settled down a bit and gave up just one more run as he pitched into the sixth inning. Peavy gave up single runs in the first and second, retired 10 in a row, but then allowed two baserunners to start the fifth and the Royals went on to score five runs in the inning on their way to a 7-2 victory.
Neither pitcher was all that great -- they combined for just three strikeouts in their 10.1 innings while giving up 14 hits -- so I don't anticipate either guy going all that deep into this one. Obviously, the Royals are in desperation mode so Ned Yost will need to have a reasonably quick hook on Ventura; it's just a matter of who he trusts if Ventura is struggling before the fifth inning. You'd have to think Danny Duffy would be the long man out of the pen.
For Bruce Bochy, Yusmeiro Petit is his wild card. I think you'll see him Tuesday night and maybe early, especially if Madison Bumgarner is available for a couple of innings if the series goes to a Game 7. The risk of burning Petit, however, is that if you lose Game 6 he may not be available for Game 7. This is what happened to the Rangers back in 2011, when Ron Washington used Derek Holland, who had pitched a gem in Game 4, for two innings in Game 6 to help preserve a lead at the time. But when the series went seven, it was Scott Feldman who had to come on in Game 7 when the Rangers were down 3-2 and he quickly gave up two runs.
Before Game 2, I mentioned that the one thing Peavy did after coming over from the Giants from the Red Sox was to throw his cutter more often. Here's where that pitch goes:
After throwing it nearly 30 percent of the time since September, Peavy threw just eight cutters in Game 2. I expect we'll see more of that pitch Tuesday night, perhaps a few more curveballs, as well. ESPN Stats & Info reports that the Royals had a .566 OPS in plate appearances ending in cutters or curves in the regular season, the second-lowest figure in the AL. Of course, to throw the curveball you usually have to be ahead in the count. Peavy has thrown 383 curveballs this season, 312 when he was ahead or even in the count. The Royals swing aggressively early in the count, so Peavy doesn't want to throw too many first-pitch fastballs.
The other thing to watch with Peavy is when he faces the lineup the third time through the order. That's when he got in trouble in Game 2 -- the sixth inning started with the 3-4-5 hitters due up for their third plate appearances. In the regular season, Peavy allowed a .229 average the first time through the order and .224 the second time through. The third? Batters hit .323/.387/.545 against him. That was one of the highest OPS totals allowed in the majors and the highest among pitchers who threw at least 40 innings the third time through.
Ventura is now in the same spot Michael Wacha was a year ago for the Cardinals: a rookie pitcher trying to get his team to a Game 7. Wacha had been on even more of a roll than Ventura, but Wacha struggled against the Red Sox and gave up six runs in 3.2 innings. (Wacha allowed a two-out, bases-loaded double to Shane Victorino in the third, a home run to Stephen Drew leading off the fourth and then a double and intentional walk to David Ortiz, with Lance Lynn coming in and allowing both runners to score.) Yost can't afford to let the game get away like it did from Cardinals manager Mike Matheny a year ago.
Ventura threw 87 pitches in Game 2 -- 62 of them fastballs. You know what's coming. Here's his fastball location from that start:
He was actually down a little more often than usual, as he throws a lot of high fastballs. Maybe that's one reason hitters have had a little more success against Ventura's heater than in the regular season. Opponents hit .256 with eight home runs against the fastball in the regular season but are hitting .309 with three home runs against it in the playoffs. The Giants went 7-for-19 with a home run and just one strikeout against fastballs in Game 2. Ventura's swing-and-miss rate on his fastball has declined to 12.5 percent in the postseason from 20 percent in the regular season.
Ventura will throw his curveball and changeup about equally, and both were effective wipeout pitches. Batters have hit .171 against the curveball and .228 against the changeup with 91 strikeouts and nine walks in plate appearances ending in those pitches. It's easy to say "throw those pitches more," but I don't think the Royals are going to change Ventura's game plan. You're still going to see a lot of fastballs.
To me, it adds up to a short leash for Ventura. Even though he doesn't have a platoon split (he was actually a little better against left-handed batters), the Giants are going to put the ball in play and not strike out much. Depending on how many innings Yost wants from Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, I still think there's a good chance you'll see lefties Duffy or Brandon Finnegan before the sixth inning.