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Royals' Yordano Ventura, 25, killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Royals' Yordano Ventura, 25, killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, whose electric arm and confident demeanor helped lead Kansas City to a long-awaited World Series championship in 2015, died in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic early Sunday. He was 25.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo said Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles northwest of Santo Domingo. Mateo did not say whether Ventura was driving.

Ventura is the second young star pitcher to die in past four months. Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, 24, was among three men killed in a boating accident in September.

Also Sunday, former major league infielder Andy Marte died in a separate car accident in the Dominican Republic. Metropolitan traffic authorities said he died about 95 miles north of the capital.

With the fitting nickname of "Ace," Ventura burst onto the baseball scene with a 100 mph fastball and an explosive attitude to match. He was a fierce competitor always willing to challenge hitters inside, then deal with the ramifications when they decided to charge the mound.

Not surprisingly, he quickly became a fan favorite as Kansas City embraced baseball once again.

"Our prayers right now are with Yordano's family as we mourn this young man's passing," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said in a statement. "He was so young and so talented, full of youthful exuberance and always brought a smile to everyone he interacted with. We will get through this as an organization, but right now is a time to mourn and celebrate the life of Yordano."

Royals teammates took to Twitter to share their sorrow.

"I love you my brother. I'm in disbelief and don't know what to say. I love you ACE," first baseman Eric Hosmer said.

Third baseman Mike Moustakas also expressed disbelief, tweeting: "I love you Ace. I don't know what to say other than I'm going to miss you a lot. RIP ACE."

Fans began arriving at Kauffman Stadium shortly after Ventura's death was announced, leaving flowers, hats and other mementos outside the stadium. Flags outside the ballpark also were lowered to half-staff.

Before his start in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series, Ventura paid tribute to his close friend and countryman, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, who had been killed days earlier in a car accident in the Dominican Republic at the age of 22.

Just hours after Taveras' funeral, Ventura put "RIP O.T (hash)18" on his hat and also wrote messages on his glove, cleats and the mound before throwing his first pitch. Ventura proceeded to shut out San Francisco for seven innings in a win.

"If he was still here, I would for sure be talking to him, and Oscar would be very happy for me and very proud," Ventura said after that game. "Oscar was a very humble guy and very likable, and I'm going to miss him a lot."

The Royals lost Game 7 the next day, but came back to win the World Series the next year, beating the New York Mets in five games for their first crown since 1985.

Ventura signed a $23 million, five-year deal with the Royals shortly before he started on opening day in 2015.

The right-hander went 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA last season. He was suspended for nine games -- cut to eight on appeal -- after hitting Orioles star Manny Machado with a fastball, leading to a brawl.

Marte, 33, last played in the majors in 2014 with Arizona. He spent the past two years in South Korea last year.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Andy Marte and Yordano Ventura," players' union executive Tony Clark said. "It's never easy to lose a member of our fraternity, and there are no words to describe the feeling of losing two young men in the prime of their lives. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families, friends, teammates and fans throughout the United States and Latin America."

Fernandez was killed late last season when his boat crashed into a jetty off Miami Beach in the early morning hours.

It wasn't certain whether Fernandez was driving the boat when it crashed on Sept. 25. He had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.147, above Florida's legal limit of 0.08, according to autopsy reports released by the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's Office.

Ventura wound up pitching his entire career for the Royals, going 38-31 with a 3.89 ERA.

Ventura was 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 2014, his first full season in the big leagues, and helped the long-downtrodden Royals reach the World Series for the first time in nearly three decades. He proceeded to dominate San Francisco in both of his starts.

In 2015, now firmly entrenched in the rotation, Ventura helped lead Kansas City back to the World Series, pitching well in two starts against Toronto in the AL championship Series. The Royals went on to beat the Mets to win their second championship.

Not surprisingly, the Royals moved quickly to sign their burgeoning young ace to a new contract through the 2019 season that included two more options that could have kept him in Kansas City.

Born June 3, 1991, in Samana, Dominican Republic, Ventura represented a true rags-to-riches story. He quit school at 14 and was laboring on a construction crew to support his family when Ventura heard about a tryout, which led to a spot in the Royals' academy located on his picturesque island home.

Still, the odds were long that Ventura would ever make it to the big leagues. Very few players from the Dominican academies reached the pinnacle of the sport.

But over time, Ventura was able to harness one of the most electric fastballs that scouts had seen in years, and his headstrong and confident nature was essential in his rapid rise. He made his big league debut to great fanfare in 2013, allowing just one run again Cleveland in a sign of things to come.

He eventually became a cornerstone of a youth movement that included young stars such as Hosmer and Moustakas, one that carried the Royals first to respectability, then to the top of the American League -- rare heights the organization had not experienced in decades.

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Gausman's arm, Machado's glove shuts out Tampa Bay

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USA TODAY Sports

Gausman's arm, Machado's glove shuts out Tampa Bay

ST. PETERBURG, Fla. -- The Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays are teams currently heading in different directions.

Kevin Gausman pitched six strong innings, Adam Jones homered and the Orioles sent the Rays to their season-worst fifth straight loss, 5-0 Monday night.

"It all feeds off the starting pitching," Jones said.

MUST SEE: Machado starts an around the horn double play

The Rays began the day tied for the second AL wild-card spot. Baltimore won for the sixth time in eight games.

"It's all about how we finish as a team," Gausman said.

Gausman (7-7) gave up five hits and struck out eight. He has permitted seven hits over 13 scoreless innings in two starts this season against Tampa Bay.

The right-hander is 4-1 in his last seven starts.

"Kevin was throwing strikes, and working with some tempo and command," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Darren O'Day, Brad Brach and Richard Bleier completed the six-hitter.

Blake Snell (0-6) went a career-high seven-plus innings. The lefty, who entered with 19 of 30 career starts lasting five or fewer innings, allowed three runs and six hits.

"Snell was tough," Showalter said.

Jones, who also doubled and singled, has an RBI in six straight games. Manny Machado drove in two runs during a three-run eighth and Jonathan Schoop drove in a run for his eighth game in a row.

Rays catcher Wilson Ramos left in the fifth after he was struck on the head by a piece of Ruben Tejada's broken bat. The team said Ramos got six staples and will be evaluated.

"He won't start tomorrow, but we're confident that he feels good," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "A little bit of a scare there. I think Wilson would have preferred to stay in the game. We just weren't able to stop the bleeding."

Jones opened the game with a double and went to third on a wild pitch, but Snell rebounded to strike out Machado and Jonathan Schoop, and retired Mark Trumbo on a popup.

Jones hit his 19th home run in the third.

Snell left in the eighth with two on and no outs. Sergio Romo, in his Rays debut, gave up a two-run single to Machado and Schoop's sacrifice fly. Schoop has 18 RBIs during his streak.

Tampa Bay loaded the bases with two outs in the third but Evan Longoria grounded out. Mallex Smith hit a leadoff triple in the fifth but was left stranded.

"We've just got to continue as this little bit of a funk goes," Cash said. "we've got to find a way to get ourselves out of it."

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Orioles' Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop pull off crazy around the horn double play

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USA TODAY Sports

Orioles' Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop pull off crazy around the horn double play

Quietly the Baltimore Orioles are trying to move back into the American League playoff picture. With more defensive plays like the team saw in the first inning on Monday, their odds will greatly improve.

Facing off against the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game of a three-game series, Manny Machado started what would be a key play for Baltimore. 

With one out and a runner on first base, Machado scooped up an Evan Longoria grounder that was flying down the third base line. Running into foul territory the 25-year-old threw across his body to Jonathan Schoop, who made a high-reaching grab at second and delivered a perfect throw down to first. Ending the inning, the Orioles kept the Rays scoreless with only one hit in the bottom half of the first inning. 

Schoop is coming off his first American League player of the week honor after an impressive stretch in seven games. Mainly the award was for his offensive numbers, but he proved to be a valuable double play partner as well. 

Not only is it a huge play in the moment, but it had to be an empowering play for the psyche of starting pitcher Kevin Gausman. On the mound for the Orioles against the Rays, Gausman was struggling post All-Star break. In three games had allowed 14 earned runs, 20 hits, and six home runs.