Royals

Edinson Volquez reaches milestone, records victory as Royals down A’s, 5-2

The Royals' Alex Gordon (right) was congratulated after hitting a home run during Friday’s baseball game against the Athletics in Oakland, Calif.
The Royals' Alex Gordon (right) was congratulated after hitting a home run during Friday’s baseball game against the Athletics in Oakland, Calif. AP

Edinson Volquez will turn 32 next week, which makes him old enough to consider himself ancient among baseball players. He once chased strikeouts with abandon, surrendering all pretext of efficiency in search of the almighty whiff. The zeal almost cost him his career.

He is wiser now, and he tells himself before each start he would only like to record three that day. Seven innings, three strikeouts, he says. That is all he needs.

Then he pulls his cap over his closely-cropped skull, packs a plug of tobacco into his lower lip and tries his best to curb his youthful instincts. So in the sixth inning of Friday’s 5-2 Royals victory over Oakland, Volquez appeared not to notice when he recorded his 1,000th strikeout in the majors. Inside the clubhouse after the game, first-base coach Rusty Kuntz pulled Volquez aside.

“I don’t think I’ve done anything in my life 1,000 times,” Kuntz cracked.

Volquez accrued the mark across 11 seasons, with six teams, in 32 stadiums. He may never touch the heights assumed for him in his youth, when scouts compared him to Pedro Martinez and called him “Pedrito.” But he is the platonic ideal of a pitcher for the Royals in 2015, one of their few stable starters, a man willing to trust the defenders behind him at all times.

Volquez (8-4, 3.18 ERA) hit his goals on Friday, the modest but effective ones he now cherishes. He logged seven innings of one-run baseball and struck out three. The third punch-out connected him with the milestone. A clubhouse attendant procured the baseball and returned it to the Royals dugout. Otherwise Volquez returned to business.

“I’m so proud,” Volquez said. “I’m proud of myself. Because I’ve been up and down most of my career. The last two years, like this year and last year, I’ve been pitching better. It’s a great adjustment.”

He benefited from solo homers by Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon, plus a three-run rally in the third. The Royals (42-28) delivered the first blow in this rematch on Friday, though they did witness some drama in the ninth. Franklin Morales hit Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt on the elbow pad. Vogt left the game, and the crowd at O.co Coliseum howled.

It is unclear if the Athletics will retaliate on Saturday afternoon to extend their April wars into a second series. Manager Ned Yost indicated he was not worried.

“That’s one of those things where you get into a situation where you’ve got to be able to recognize what is intentional and what is not intentional,” Yost said. “With a 2-2 count, Franklin just flew wide open, trying to bury a sinker, and hit him.”

The day provided an opportunity for reunions. Billy Butler took early fielding practice and early batting practice, a pair of chances to be near his former teammates. He chatted with scores of them before the game. At one point, Yost walked over, shook Butler’s hand and then embraced Oakland coach Ron Washington with a hug.

Washington shared a spring training complex for years with Yost as manager of the Texas Rangers. He rejoined the Athletics as a coach in late May. In one way his presence signified how much time had passed since these two clubs warred in April. The Royals downplayed the rematch in the days leading up to the game, and Yost did the same.

“Business as usual,” Yost said before the game. “You just go play baseball. If you guys hadn’t said anything about it, nothing would have been said about it. Because nobody on my team has even mentioned it or thought about it. And I doubt very seriously anybody over there has.”

And still the crowd at O.co Coliseum jeered the first at-bat from Alcides Escobar. The row with Oakland started when Escobar had the temerity to be upset when Athletics third baseman Brett Lawrie injured his knee with a takeout slide. The first bit of fireworks did not occur until the second inning.

This burst did not involve fisticuffs. It involved a belt-high changeup from Oakland starter Jesse Hahn. Morales sat on the pitch, long enough to power it to the opposite field. His solo shot cleared the left-field fence.

“It’s hard to hit a ball the opposite way for a homer,” Yost said. “You’ve got to be really strong.”

An inning later, the Royals strung together three runs on four hits, a passed ball and a costly fielding error by the A’s. The first hit flowed from the bat of outfielder Alex Rios. Escobar followed him with a hit of his own. Lorenzo Cain came to bat with two outs and runners at the corners.

Hahn tested Cain with three fastballs. All three were low, but the last was high enough for Cain to attack it. The baseball chopped in front of the plate with enough momentum to carry it past a dive from shortstop Marcus Semien. Rios strolled home for Kansas City’s second run.

“I was just trying to stay up the middle,” Cain said. “He had a really good two-seamer. Pretty good slider. My focus was to stay up the middle. I was able to do that. It ended up working out perfectly.”

Two more resulted from a pair of mistakes by the Athletics and a well-placed ground ball off Eric Hosmer’s bat. Catcher Stephen Vogt lost control of a pitch. The passed ball let both runners advance a base. The extra 90 feet loomed large when Hosmer rolled a fastball toward first baseman Ike Davis.

Davis shares several qualities with Hosmer. Both are first baseman who swing lefty and throw lefty. When Hosmer visited Arizona State as a recruit, Davis hosted him. Davis heard raves about his defense a few years ago, when he was viewed as the future face of the Mets. But he injured his ankle in a freak accident early in 2011, and lost some of his mobility around the bag.

As the grounder approached, Davis swooped into the grass and scooped the baseball. Hosmer locked into a race with Hahn toward the bag. Hahn arrived first, but Davis pitched the ball on the near side of the bag. The ball dribbled away from the diamond. Both Escobar and Cain scored.

“Manufacturing the third and fourth run on an infield single was big for us,” Yost said. “It really gave us some breathing room.”

The bottom of the third included Volquez’s lone, lengthy tussle with trouble. He gave up a leadoff single to Davis. Two batters later he succumbed to Sam Fuld, the undersized outfielder who acted like a gnat to Royals pitchers so often in 2014. Fuld lined a fastball into center field for an RBI double.

The hit also exposed Volquez to the top of Oakland’s batting order. The predicament did not bother him. Volquez fell behind leadoff hitter Eric Sogard with three balls in a row, then battled back with a trio of sinkers. Sogard hit the last at Gordon in left. Volquez bullied Lawrie into a groundout for the third out.

The Athletics never challenged Volquez again. He did not allow a runner to reach third base for the rest of the evening. He exited after his seven strong frames, with another victory soon to be on his record. He once desired strikeouts above all. But he is older now, smart enough to search for something bigger.

“The strikeouts? I don’t know,” Volquez said. “They keep coming. They keep coming.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar.

Royals 5, Athletics 2

Royals

ab

r

h

bi

k

so

avg.

A.Escobar ss

5

1

1

0

0

2

.283

Moustakas 3b

4

0

1

0

1

1

.327

L.Cain cf

4

1

1

1

1

1

.290

Hosmer 1b

5

0

1

1

0

0

.291

K.Morales dh

3

1

1

1

1

1

.288

A.Gordon lf

3

1

3

1

1

0

.280

S.Perez c

4

0

1

0

0

0

.275

Rios rf

4

1

1

0

0

1

.215

Infante 2b

4

0

1

0

0

1

.236

Totals

36

5

11

4

4

7

Oakland

ab

r

h

bi

bb

k

avg.

Sogard 2b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.253

Lawrie 3b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.285

Vogt c

3

0

0

0

0

1

.304

Phegley pr

0

1

0

0

0

0

.305

Zobrist lf

3

0

1

1

1

0

.253

Reddick rf

4

0

1

0

0

0

.292

B.Butler dh

4

0

0

0

0

1

.245

I.Davis 1b

3

0

1

0

0

0

.268

Semien ss

3

1

0

0

0

1

.263

Fuld cf

3

0

1

1

0

0

.210

Totals

31

2

4

2

1

5

Kansas City

013

001

000

5

11

1

Oakland

001

000

001

2

4

1

E: Infante (4), I.Davis (4). LOB: Kansas City 8, Oakland 4. 2B: S.Perez (12), Zobrist (13), Fuld (10). HR: K.Morales (9), off Hahn; A.Gordon (9), off Hahn. RBIs: L.Cain (33), Hosmer (40), K.Morales (46), A.Gordon (32), Zobrist (28), Fuld (13). SB: Infante (1).

Runners left in scoring position: Kansas City 6 (K.Morales, Infante, Rios 2, L.Cain, Hosmer); Oakland 3 (Lawrie, B.Butler 2). RISP: Kansas City 3 for 14; Oakland 0 for 5.

Runners moved up: S.Perez, Infante. GIDP: L.Cain, S.Perez.

DP: Oakland 2 (Lawrie, Sogard, I.Davis), (Lawrie, Sogard, I.Davis).

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Volquez W, 8-4

7

3

1

1

1

3

107

3.18

K.Herrera

1

0

0

0

0

1

12

1.86

F.Morales

0.1

1

1

1

0

0

14

3.07

G.Holland S, 15-16

0.2

0

0

0

0

1

7

2.84

TableStyle: SP-basepitchersCCI Template: SP-basepitchers

Oakland

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

NP

ERA

Hahn L, 5-6

6

9

5

3

1

5

91

3.47

Scribner

1

1

0

0

0

2

18

3.08

O’Flaherty

0.1

1

0

0

1

0

11

8.25

Fe.Rodriguez

1.2

0

0

0

2

0

24

4.42

Inherited runners-scored: G.Holland 1-0, Fe.Rodriguez 2-0. HBP: by F.Morales (Vogt). PB: Vogt.

Umpires: Home, Paul Schrieber; First, Fieldin Culbreth; Second, Jim Reynolds; Third, Manny Gonzalez.

T: 2:51. A: 27,365 (35,067).

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