Royals

Royals down Blue Jays 5-0 and take ALCS opener

Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas celebrated with catcher Salvador Perez after Perez hit a solo homer in the fourth inning of Friday's ALCS baseball game at Kauffman Stadium.
Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas celebrated with catcher Salvador Perez after Perez hit a solo homer in the fourth inning of Friday's ALCS baseball game at Kauffman Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

Edinson Volquez strutted out of the Royals bullpen with catcher Salvador Perez as the sun dipped out of sight at Kauffman Stadium. The first game of the American League Championship Series with Toronto awaited, and Perez asked Volquez how he felt. Volquez left little doubt.

“I feel sexy tonight,” he told his teammate.

A few hours later, after Volquez provided a six-inning backbone to a 5-0 victory Friday, he still felt enough adrenaline to obscure the onset of soreness in his right arm. He knew in the morning his entire right side would ache after throwing 111 pitches, including 37 in his final inning. But for now, he experienced only the exhilaration of the effort.

As he walked toward his press conference, voices clamored for him.

“Big Game Eddie!” one fan shouted.

“Eddie V.!” another called out.

The Star's Andy McCullough and Blair Kerkhoff recap the Royals' 5-0 victory over Toronto in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday and look ahead to Game 2 at 3 p.m. Saturday at Kauffman Stadium (TV: Fox Sports 1)

Volquez acknowledged the attention and laughed. The crowd had already chanted his name, once during the torturous sixth inning and again after he stilled the bats of the Blue Jays. When Volquez walked off the mound earlier in the night, he pointed to the masses and thumped his heart before he disappeared into the dugout.

Behind him, Toronto stars Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista trudged to their dugout. Volquez had walked both men to start the sixth inning. After that, neither man advanced a step. Volquez struck out Troy Tulowitzki for the last out.

“It was a big one for me, to get out of that inning,” Volquez said. “Especially against Tulowitzki. He’s the greatest hitter I’ve ever faced. It was a little emotional for me.”

A different Royal rewarded manager Ned Yost for his trust two innings later. Yost sent Ryan Madson, who absorbed tremendous damage from the Blue Jays on multiple occasions in the regular season, to pitch the eighth after a dynamic, brief seventh inning from Kelvin Herrera.

Madson gave up a single to Donaldson and walked Bautista, but still escaped with a scoreless inning.

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What guided Yost during those moments of crisis? Perhaps it was faith in his players, perhaps it was belief in their fortitude. Perhaps it was inertia, the resistance to break from routine this early in a series. Volquez provided six scoreless innings, gave up two hits, walked four and struck out five. He expended himself in the process, working with a slight uptick in fastball velocity that impressed the Blue Jays.

“He just didn’t seem rattled at all,” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “Stuck to his game plan. And made some big-time pitches.”

Alcides Escobar doubled in a run in the third, and scored soon after. Salvador Perez popped his third homer of the postseason in the fourth. The strikes were quick and efficient, enough to let the Royals play, for the first time this postseason, from ahead. Hosmer had an RBI double in the eighth, and Kendrys Morales added a sacrifice fly, enough to let Luke Hochevar close with a five-run lead.

Each run mattered, for the Blue Jays leave scant margin for error. They exhaust pitchers with their restraint. They embarrass them with their brawn. They wallop mistakes. They shatter the confidence of their foes.

During the second half, Toronto decimated opponents and embarked on a run that included taking three of four from Kansas City during the first weekend of August. For weeks afterward, the Blue Jays stalked the Royals in the standings, running them down in the chase for home-field advantage only to cough up the lead on the season’s penultimate day.

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These two clubs nearly came to blows the last time they played. After staring at each other from afar thereafter, the first encounter lacked any fisticuffs or beanballs. There were no brawls. There was no controversy. The only jawing was one-sided, the chatter of Bautista at the umpire.

Yordano Ventura will duel with Toronto southpaw David Price on Saturday afternoon in Game 2. Ventura can hope to replicate the opening effort from Volquez, who quieted a bunch that does not often allow for silence.

“He shut down a good-hitting team,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “That's really how good he was.”

The Royals proved last series, if any doubt lingered after 2014, how well they could absorb a punch. Few opponents throw heavier blows than Toronto. The Blue Jays led the major leagues in runs, home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The heart of their order features a trio of right-handed bombardiers: Donaldson, Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

To suppress the Jays, the Royals handed the baseball to Volquez. He amped his fastball up to 97 mph during a scoreless first inning that still required 24 pitches. Volquez balanced that with a six-pitch second.

Escobar could not advance after a leadoff double in the first. Two innings later, he came to the plate with Alex Gordon at second base. Gordon had ended a nine-pitch clash with right-hander Marco Estrada by doubling a fastball into right field.

Now, Escobar offered at a curveball from Estrada. The pitch bent down and away, perhaps a strike, perhaps not. Escobar flicked it into right for a run-scoring double, listening to the advice of hitting coach Dale Sveum: If you see the ball in the zone, take a rip.

“Always I swing the first pitch,” Escobar said. “And then he throw me a curve and I swing again.”

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When Estrada fired a elevated fastball two at-bats later, Lorenzo Cain shuttled an RBI single into right. Volquez had two runs to protect.

The Royals voiced a belief on Thursday that they needed to pound the Blue Jays inside with fastballs. But pitching coach Dave Eiland suggested Volquez switch up the plan, and catch their guests off guard by working away. Volquez and Perez liked the idea.

“Away, away, away,” Eiland said.

Two days prior, Bautista unloaded a towering home run to clinch a Game 5 ALDS comeback over Texas. He flung his bat skyward, exhilarating the crowd at Rogers Centre and sparking an industry-wide debate on the ethics of bat flips. Bautista can generate attention with either the reverberations of his bat or the bark of his voice.

Around the game, Bautista carries a reputation for chirping at umpires. The strike zone of Tony Randazzo aggravated him in the fourth. On two consecutive pitches, Randazzao rewarded Volquez with a high strike on the outside corner. After the second, Bautista waved his arms and stomped out of the batter’s box. He returned in time to watch a curveball buckle for strike three.

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Perez came to the plate with two outs in the fourth. The previous two hitters had just struck out. Estrada fed Perez a 90-mph fastball at the belt. Perez made the baseball disappear over the left-field fence.

When the sixth inning rolled around, Volquez stood unchallenged. Yet on a third glance, neither Donaldson nor Bautista chased. Donaldson drained Volquez with a nine-pitch walk. He missed sinkers up in the zone, but declined to hack at offspeed pitches out of his reach.

“He made a few mistakes inside tonight in my at-bats that I can remember and just kind of fouled them off,” Donaldson said. “Some of that has to do with a little bit of his added velo tonight. It made everything else a little bit better.”

Donaldson trotted to first. The bullpen phone rang. Kelvin Herrera hopped up.

Bautista repeated the pattern. He could not punish Volquez for misplaced fastballs. Volquez abandoned the heater for his change-up. He missed on the ninth pitch of the plate appearance and put Bautista on.

A figure emerged from the Royals dugout. It was not Yost. It was Eiland. He spoke with Volquez and left to watch him face Encarnacion.

“He got breaking-ball and change-up heavy,” Eiland said. “I went out there and said, ‘You’ve got to use your fastball here.’ ”

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Inside the dugout, Yost decided that if another batter reached base, Volquez was done. Each encounter felt like trench warfare. Encarnacion fouled off two heaters. He stared at a third for the first out. The two-seamer dived at the last moment to catch the outer edge of the zone.

Up came first baseman Chris Colabello, who owned one of the two hits against Volquez. Colabello cracked the eighth pitch he saw into left. Gordon caught it.

The midseason arrival of Tulowitzki coincided with the revival of the Blue Jays. Now he arrived in this game’s moment of truth, only a month removed from a broken scapula that sidelined him in September.

Volquez elected to challenge the damaged star. He flung seven consecutive fastballs. The last clocked at 95 mph and hummed over the plate. Tulowitzki let it pass. The crowd erupted as Randazzo pumped his fist.

“That surprised me,” Volquez said. “Like, oh, this guy took a fastball right down the middle, 3-2? Something happened with him. I don’t know. You don’t see that very often.”

Volquez began to laugh. He had felt sexy at the start. Then he followed through with pitching to match.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It was a good pitch.”

Andy McCullough: 816-234-4730, @McCulloughStar. Download True Blue, The Star’s free Royals app, here.

Edinson Volquez talked to Johnny Cueto and Sal Perez and wrote some tips in his hat before he shut down Toronto for six innings, throwing 111 pitches, including 37 in the sixth, as the Royals beat Toronto 5-0 in Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday at Kau

American League Championship Series Game 1

Royals 5, Blue Jays 0

TableStyle: SP-basebattersCCI Template: SP-basebatters

Toronto

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Revere lf

4

0

0

0

0

1

.000

Donaldson 3b

3

0

1

0

1

0

.333

Bautista rf

1

0

0

0

3

1

.000

Encarnacion dh

3

0

0

0

0

1

.000

a-Smoak ph-dh

1

0

0

0

0

0

.000

Colabello 1b

4

0

1

0

0

0

.250

Tulowitzki ss

4

0

0

0

0

2

.000

D.Navarro c

4

0

0

0

0

1

.000

Pillar cf

3

0

0

0

1

0

.000

Goins 2b

3

0

1

0

0

1

.333

Totals

30

0

3

0

5

7

 

TableStyle: SP-basebattersCCI Template: SP-basebatters

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

A.Escobar ss

3

2

2

1

0

0

.667

Zobrist 2b

4

1

1

0

0

0

.250

L.Cain cf

4

0

1

1

0

1

.250

Hosmer 1b

4

0

1

1

0

0

.250

K.Morales dh

3

0

1

1

0

2

.333

Moustakas 3b

4

0

0

0

0

2

.000

S.Perez c

3

1

1

1

0

0

.333

A.Gordon lf

3

1

1

0

0

0

.333

Rios rf

3

0

0

0

0

2

.000

Orlando rf

0

0

0

0

0

0

---

Totals

31

5

8

5

0

7

 

TableStyle: SP-basebyinningsCCI Template: SP-basebyinnings

Toronto

000

000

000

0

3

1

Kansas City

002

100

02x

5

8

1

E: Donaldson (1), Moustakas (1). LOB: Toronto 9, Kansas City 4. 2B: A.Escobar 2 (2), Hosmer (1), A.Gordon (1). HR: S.Perez (1), off Estrada. RBIs: A.Escobar (1), L.Cain (1), Hosmer (1), K.Morales (1), S.Perez (1). SB: L.Cain (1). S: Goins. SF: K.Morales.

Runners left in scoring position: Toronto 3 (Donaldson, Tulowitzki, Colabello); Kansas City 4 (Hosmer 2, Moustakas 2). RISP: Toronto 0 for 7; Kansas City 3 for 12. Runners moved up: Zobrist. GIDP: Moustakas. DP: Toronto 1 (Goins, Tulowitzki, Colabello).

TableStyle: SP-basepitchersCCI Template: SP-basepitchers

Toronto

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Estrada L, 0-1

5.1

6

3

3

0

6

5.06

Loup

0.2

0

0

0

0

0

0.00

Lowe

1

0

0

0

0

1

0.00

Hawkins

1

2

2

2

0

0

18.00

TableStyle: SP-basepitchersCCI Template: SP-basepitchers

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

W

K

ERA

Volquez W, 1-0

6

2

0

0

4

5

0.00

K.Herrera

1

0

0

0

0

2

0.00

Madson

1

1

0

0

1

0

0.00

Hochevar

1

0

0

0

0

0

0.00

Holds: K.Herrera (1), Madson (1). Inherited runners-scored: Loup 2-0. HBP: by Hawkins (A.Escobar).

Umpires: Home, Tony Randazzo; First, Laz Diaz; Second, John Hirschbeck; Third, Hunter Wendelstedt; Left, Dan Iassogna; Right, Jeff Nelson. Time: 3:15. Att: 39,753.

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