KANSAS CITY – The Giants chased Royals starter Yordano Ventura in the top of the sixth inning Wednesday in Game 2 of the World Series.
All Kansas City did was replace one 100 mile-per-hour flamethrower with another.
Reliever Kelvin Herrera took over for Ventura and retired Brandon Belt and Michael Morse to strand two runners and preserve a tie game. The Royals parlayed that into a five-run go-ahead rally in the bottom of the sixth that spurred them to a 7-2 victory to even the Fall Classic at one game apiece.
If Herrera wasn’t the lead character in Kansas City’s victorious surge, he sure played a big supporting role. He blanked the Giants over 1 2/3 innings, and he brought the heat immediately upon entering. His first pitch to Belt clocked in at 101 mph. Overall, a career-high 14 of his 32 pitches popped the mitt at 100 mph or over.
“Electric, man,” Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. “I definitely wouldn’t wanna face him.”
Herrera, 24, has thrown gas ever since debuting in the majors in 2011. His command was trickier to harness.
After a breakout 2012 campaign, when he posted a 2.35 ERA in 76 appearances, Herrera twice was demoted to the minors last year to smooth out some mechanical issues.
“Last year was kind of a learning year for me,” Herrera said. “I came back stronger.”
Occasionally the command issues still surface.
After sitting through his teammates’ five-run rally in the bottom of the sixth, which lasted 32 minutes, Herrera issued back-to-back one-out walks in the seventh. A visit from Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland helped.
“Just raise my elbow up because I was trying to be too fine to throw strikes,” Herrera said.
Although the Royals broke through offensively in the sixth, they also got their bullpen back into rhythm, with the dominant 7th-8th-9th trio of Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland closing out the victory.
Those three gave Kansas City a Major League first this regular season – three relievers who all pitched at least 60 innings and posted ERAs under 1.50.
The late-inning lockdown begins with Herrera, the hardest-throwing of the three.
But Herrera’s teammates say his game has evolved into more than just velocity, velocity and more velocity.
“He’s pitching inside a lot more, and when you’re throwing that hard, pitching inside is a good thing,” Davis said. “It’s tough to catch up to 100 (mph) in the zone anyway. But if it’s coming in, it’s a lot harder. And he’s sinking the ball, he’s mixing in his off-speed. He’s got a lot of confidence out there.”