Through four innings Sunday, Edinson Volquez was outdueling Dallas Keuchel.
“He had his best stuff,” Astros center fielder Carlos Gomez said of Volquez. “He was throwing filthy change-ups, running sinkers, 95 to 96 (mph) and that big curve.”
But a couple of misplaced pitches in the fifth inning cost Volquez one of the most memorable games of his career, and he wound up with the loss in the Royals’ 4-2 defeat in Game 3 of the AL Division Series.
Through four innings, Volquez had struck out six, and the only hit he surrendered was Chris Carter’s third-inning shot to the wall that Royals left fielder Alex Gordon fielded and fired to Ben Zobrist at second for the out.
But the fifth inning was Volquez’s undoing.
He struck out Gomez but walked Luis Valbuena. Carter again slashed a hit to left, but there would be no out at second this time. The Astros had runners at second and third.
Catcher Jason Castro, the ninth-place hitter, came up and fell behind 1-2.
Royals catcher Salvador Perez called for a fastball. Volquez shook him off and threw a change-up that Castro grounded into center field to give the Astros a 2-1 lead.
“I made a mistake with Castro,” Volquez said.
One from which the Royals and Volquez wouldn’t recover. An inning later, Gomez delivered a two-out RBI single to center after George Springer led off with a double. Volquez had struck out Evan Gattis but couldn’t finish off the inning.
Royals manager Ned Yost pulled Volquez, who finished with eight strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings, one short of matching a franchise record for strikeouts in a postseason game.
“Volquez threw unbelievably good,” Yost said. “Both pitches they capitalized on with runners in scoring position were actually great pitches.”
On a day when Volquez might have had his best stuff, at least early on, the Royals couldn’t take advantage.