Strong Volquez outing lifts Royals past Blue Jays in Game 1 of ALCS

The Royals took Game 1 of the ALCS vs. the Blue Jays with a 5–0 win at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City
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The Royals beat the Blue Jays 5–0 in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, taking a 1–0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The game marked just the sixth time all season that the Blue Jays were shut out and the first since Sept. 13, when Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees did the honors. It was also just the fifth time all year that the Blue Jays, who collected three singles and seven walks, were held without an extra-base hit. The last time that happened was July 9 when they were shut out by the White Sox’ Jeff Samardzija.

Here are three thoughts from the game:

Edinson’s Medicine

The tone for this game was set by Kansas City starer Edinson Volquez, who allowed just two hits through six scoreless innings. Sitting at 96 mph with his fastball, spotting his curve and changeup, hitting all four corners of the strike zone with all three pitches and establishing a quick pace, Volquez scattered four walks and didn’t allow his first hit, a single by Chris Colabello, until there were two outs in the fourth inning. The Blue Jays didn’t get multiple runners on base in a single inning until Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista each worked nine-pitch walks to start the sixth. Volquez looked like a different pitcher during those two at-bats, but after a mound visit from pitching coach Dave Eiland, Volquez reestablished his fastball, striking out Edwin Encarnacion on four pitches, getting Colabello to fly out to left and striking out Troy Tulowitzki to strand both runners and end his evening at 111 pitches. Volquez didn’t allow a runner past second base all night.

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Sal the Basher gets bashed

The Royals got their first two runs in the third inning on doubles by Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar, who doubled on the first two pitches he saw from Toronto starter Marco Estrada in the first and third innings, and an RBI single by Lorenzo Cain. Their third run came on a two-out solo home run by Salvador Perez in the bottom of the fourth. Perez homered twice in the division series against the Astros and twice on the final day of the regular season. He has thus hit five home runs in his last seven games and is now hitting .294/.429/.824 this postseason. However, Perez was hit near the base of his left middle finger by Donaldson’s backswing in the top of the eighth and, while he remained in the game, appeared to be in significant pain.

A bad night gets worse for the Blue Jays

Speaking of injuries, in his sixth-inning at-bat against Volquez, Toronto designated hitter Encarnacion re-aggravated the left middle finger that he jammed in mid-August. It has bothered him on and off ever since. Encarnacion was unable to take his turn at the plate in the eighth inning with Donaldson and Bautista on again, via a one-out single and walk. Justin Smoak popped out in his place while Encarnacion underwent precautionary X-rays. Those X-rays came back negative, but Encarnacion was diagnosed with a ligament strain in the finger and is considered day-to-day, which could mean he’ll miss Game 2 and be reevaluated after Sunday’s off day.

After the Jays’ top-of-the-eighth rally was quashed, manager John Gibbons called on LaTroy Hawkins to pitch the bottom of the eighth only to watch the 42-year-old continue to struggle. Hawkins fell into disuse in September, posting a 7.20 ERA in a mere six appearances, and gave up the winning runs in the 14th inning of Game 2 in his only appearance in the division series against the Rangers. On this occasion, he hit the first batter he faced, Escobar, then gave up a single to Ben Zobrist, a one-out RBI double to Eric Hosmer and an RBI sac fly to Kendrys Morales to expand the Royals’ lead to 5–0, allowing Ned Yost to rest his closer and use Luke Hochevar instead in the ninth inning. If he wasn’t already, Hawkins seems likely to be limited to garbage-time duty for the remainder of this series.