KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Yordano Ventura's locker sits next to that of Edinson Volquez in the Kansas City clubhouse, and two down from Johnny Cueto, who arrived last month in a trade from Cincinnati.
In other words, he gets plenty of veteran advice.
"I believe Johnny's had a big impact on Ventura the last three or four starts," Royals manager Ned Yost said after his young flamethrower tossed a gem in a 5-3 victory over Baltimore.
"Every once in a while, you hear it from the pitching coach, you hear it from the pitching coach, and then you hear it from a teammate and it sinks in," he said.
Exactly what "it" might be is anyone's guess, but the results have been obvious: Ventura (9-7) struck out a career-high 11 in just six innings Thursday, allowing only two hits and four walks while improving to 5-0 in his last seven starts.
"There's been a lot of work put in preparing to get better," Ventura said with catching coach Pedro Grifol serving as a translator. "I feel like this was one of my better outings."
The Royals' usually solid bullpen nearly gave it away, though. Kelvin Herrera served up a homer to Ryan Flaherty in the seventh, and Greg Holland allowed two more runs in the ninth before getting Gerardo Parra to ground out with a runner on to end the game.
Chris Tillman (9-9), who tossed a five-hitter at Kauffman Stadium last May, followed his first loss since May 31 with another. He allowed four runs over six innings.
The game wasn't all that Baltimore lost, either.
All-Star outfielder Adam Jones left soon after crashing into the wall trying to track down a fly ball in the first. Jones lay on the warning track for a few minutes before standing up and finishing the inning. Paul Janish replaced him as a pinch hitter.
"He feels a lot better now than he did. His vision was — most of it was whiplash," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I don't think there's any head trauma, concussion-wise."
Showalter said that Jones would be evaluated Friday in Texas.
"Any time Adam says anything's bothering him," Showalter said, "you'd better multiply it times two because he's a tough nut."
The first five outs Ventura recorded were punchouts, and he later struck out Matt Wieters to leave runners on second and third. Ventura eventually surpassed his career-best of 10 strikeouts set last May by fanning Wieters for the third time with a 99 mph fastball.
Orlando also contributed a sacrifice fly for the Royals, while hot-hitting Mike Moustakas drove in a pair of runs and Salvador Perez had an RBI single
The AL Central-leading Royals took three of four in the series, and have won 10 of their last 11 against the Orioles. Baltimore, which began the day two back of the final wild-card spot, still has not won back-to-back games since sweeping Oakland earlier this month.
The start of the game was delayed by 1 hour, 35 minutes, as a storm rolled through.
Then, Ventura followed up the thunder with some lightning of his own, an assortment of fastballs that nipped at triple digits and kept the slumping Orioles flailing.
Ventura had at least two strikeouts each of his first four innings.
"He was good," Showalter said. "We had him close to 30 pitches the first inning, we let him get back in step second or third inning or he could have had a lot shorter outing."
STATS AND STREAKS
The Royals have won eight straight series at home. ... Flaherty's homer snapped Herrera's streak of 18 1-3 scoreless innings against the Orioles. ... Janish had a pair of hits, the first time he's had a multihit game since Sept. 4, 2013, with Atlanta.
Orioles: Jones walked in his only plate appearance before leaving the game.
Royals: CF Lorenzo Cain and 1B Eric Hosmer got a day off from the starting lineup as manager Ned Yost tries to keep key players fresh. Hosmer pinch ran in the seventh and stayed in the game.
Orioles: RHP Kevin Gausman opens a three-game set Friday night at Texas.
Royals: Volquez starts a three-game series Friday night at Tampa Bay.