The old adage is that experience wins in the playoffs. It's been dispelled by countless rookies and young players coming onto the scene to perform at a high level and taking their teams deep into the playoffs.
Francisco Rodriguez did it in 2002, Miguel Cabrera in 2003 and David Price in 2008. Those guys were late call-ups who surprised the league with extreme talent and little intelligence to use against them.
It will be a different story for two rookies battling against one another on Friday night in Southern California. Two established rookies, who will finish somewhere close to (but behind) Jose Abreu in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, take center stage in game two of the ALDS.
For the home Angels, Matt Shoemaker has been an absolute savior for a starting rotation that has been beaten and battered throughout 2014. The 28-year-old rookie began the season in the bullpen before eventually moving to the rotation midway through May.
And he's solidified himself as one of LA's three best starters ever since. Shoemaker won 16 games this season with an ERA of 3.04 and a WHIP of 1.07. He's been even better since July 21.
In the 11 starts he's made since then, Shoemaker has lowered his ERA from 4.54. He's gone at least seven innings in five of those 11 starts and, most notably, his Angels have won 10 of those 11 games.
With the home favored Angels losing game one behind their ace Jered Weaver, and with no Garrett Richards available to take pressure off of the rest of the rotation, Shoemaker faces a spot where he just about needs to pitch his team to victory if they are to make any noise in the playoffs beyond the Divisional Series.
Meanwhile, Yordano Venture gets a shot at redemption he probably thought he wouldn't get for a while during the American League Wildcard. It was Ventura who coughed up the Kansas City lead when he came out of the bullpen for James Shields and proceeded to give up a three-run homer to Brandon Moss.
Ventura was on the hook for the loss until his team mounted a rally and eventually won the game. Ned Yost took some heat for throwing his 23-year-old rookie into that type of situation after he made just one appearance out of the bullpen during the regular season.
But Ventura returns to his familiar spot in the starting rotation Friday to take on a lineup he faced just once in the regular season. Ventura gave up two runs on seven hits in just four innings against the Angels in that start.
Overall, Ventura blew away hitters in his first year with an electric fastball and wipeout breaking ball. Ventura posted a 3.20 ERA to go along with 14 wins. And he, like Shoemaker, pitched his best ball at the end of the season. His last 12 outings yielded 11 quality starts. And now, he takes the ball for the biggest start of his life.
With Kansas City leading 1-0, the majority of the pressure falls on Shoemaker. But if the Royals can take a 2-0 lead back home, they hold a decided advantage to march onto the ALCS.
That opportunity lies with Ventura. First pitch is scheduled for 9:07 Eastern Time.
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