KANSAS CITY – After Yordano Ventura delivered an emotional and dominant start in Wednesday’s Game 6 victory, the Royals’ pin their World Series hopes on a 35-year-old journeyman.
Jeremy Guthrie will take the ball in Wednesday’s Game 7 against the Giants, and to say it’s the biggest start of his career is an understatement. He’ll match up against Giants 39-year-old right-hander Tim Hudson. And in a Major League season where no one could have predicted these two teams would wind up playing for all the marbles, perhaps it’s fitting that an oddball pitching matchup will help decide things.
[RECAP: Peavy rocked, Royals force Game 7]
Guthrie, who played at Stanford, is 84-100 over his 11-year big league career. That win total includes a Game 3 victory over the Giants in this series, when he went five innings and allowed two runs.
He’s pitching for his fourth major league team and sports a 4.23 career regular-season ERA. But Royals reliever Tim Collins said Guthrie has the right mentality for the Game 7 starting assignment.
“He’s a guy that doesn’t get fazed by much,” Collins said. “On his start days, he’s ready. He’s a guy that’s extremely focused. He’s a big-game guy.”
Just not a big-name guy.
But Guthrie has an appreciation for great performances on the big stage. He recalls as a kid watching the Minnesota Twins’ Jack Morris blank the Atlanta Braves 1-0 in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
“I remember that game,” Guthrie said. “I was 12 years old, so certainly I could appreciate the effort that he gave and the magnitude of the game.”
On the Giants’ side, it’s a given that ace Madison Bumgarner will be available in relief should Hudson falter. But will Royals ace James Shields, who like Bumgarner would be on just two days’ rest, be a relief option for Royals manager Ned Yost?
[RELATED: Bumgarner ready to go if needed in Game 7]
“I'm ready to go, ready to rock and roll,” Shields told Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal on Tuesday.
The Royals forced Game 7 on the strength of a 15-hit offensive attack and an inspiring effort from Ventura. The rookie from the Dominican Republic was pitching with a heavy heart just two days after his friend and countryman, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, was killed in a car accident.
Ventura wrote “RIP O.T. #18” on his cap for his Game 6 start, then held the Giants to three hits over seven innings.
“I don’t really know what more to say,” Yost said afterward. “You’ve got a 23-year-old kid pitching the biggest game that this stadium has seen in 29 years … and he goes out there in complete command of his emotions with great stuff and throws seven shutout innings. … To perform the way he did was just special.”
Now Guthrie gets his chance to shine in the Game 7 spotlight.
“I feel that whatever I bring to Game 7 will be my best,” Guthrie said. “Hopefully it’s good enough, but if not, all the preparation, all the work has paid off thus far, and that’s what I trust. …What can we control? Put yourself in a position to be successful and accept the results and be grateful for the opportunity.”