Edinson Volquez fired six scoreless innings and the bullpen held the fort to send the Royals to a 5-0 victory over the Blue Jays on Friday night in Game 1 of the ALCS at Kauffman Stadium. It’s the first time Volquez has been able to complete the sixth inning in a post-season start.
The Royals got on the board in the third inning against Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada when Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar each doubled to right field to push across a run. Lorenzo Cain brought Escobar home shortly thereafter with a single. Catcher Salvador Perez tacked on a solo home run in the fourth — his third round-tripper in the post-season thus far. Estrada finished having allowed the three runs on six hits and no walks with six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
The Blue Jays mounted their biggest threat in the top of the sixth inning against Volquez, drawing back-to-back walks to open up the frame. Edwin Encarnacion struck out, Chris Colabello lined out, and Troy Tulowitzki struck out squelch the rally. Volquez had to throw 37 pitches in the sixth inning to escape danger.
Kelvin Herrera worked a perfect seventh with two strikeouts. In the eighth, Ryan Madson allowed a one-out single and a walk, but wriggled out of trouble when he got Justin Smoak — pinch-hitting for Encarnacion — to pop up and Colabello to ground out. The Royals added insurance in the bottom of the eighth as Eric Hosmer hit an RBI double to right field and Kendrys Morales hit a sacrifice fly to left field.
Luke Hochevar took the mound in the top of the ninth with a five-run lead. He had to work around a one-out fielding error by third baseman Mike Moustakas, getting Kevin Pillar to hit into a 6-4 fielder’s choice and Ryan Goins to fly out to left field.
The Blue Jays led the major leagues in offense, averaging 5.5 runs per game. They were shut out just five times in 162 games during the regular season.
The ALCS continues on Saturday at 3:30 PM EDT with David Price starting for the Blue Jays against Yordano Ventura of the Royals.
We welcomed “Mason Saunders” into our lives on Sunday, thanks to The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan. Mason Saunders is the alias of Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner when he competes in rodeos, something he’s done as recently as December (when he was still a free agent).
Given that one of Bumgarner’s other extracurricular activities, riding dirt bikes, resulted in a serious injury, many have been wondering how the Diamondbacks would react to the news that the lefty they inked to a five-year contract two months ago is roping steers in his spare time. It seems like the Diamondbacks just accept that that’s who Bumgarner is.
On Tuesday, Baggarly and Buchanan answered some frequently asked questions about the whole Bumgarner-rodeo thing. They mentioned that former Giants manager Bruce Bochy, in a radio interview on KNBR, slipped in that Bumgarner also hunts bears in his off-time. Bochy said, “You think, ‘Madison, you’re looking at signing your biggest contract ever to set yourself up for life and you’re going to risk it on the rodeo?’ But he’s got confidence. I mean there’s some stories I do know that he probably wouldn’t want me to share, with him bear hunting, and the tight situations he’s gotten himself into.”
As Baggarly and Buchanan explained, when Bumgarner — I mean, Saunders — is roping steers, he’s not taking much of a risk. They wrote, “The header and heeler don’t chase the steer around the ring. Each trial is more or less a one-shot deal and it’s over in less than 10 seconds. If the header or heeler misses on the first attempt, then no time is recorded.” Bumgarner has also said he ropes with his non-pitching hand. Hunting bears is an entirely different level of risk, one would imagine. That being said, no one seemed to be surprised that Bumgarner moonlights as a serious rodeo competitor. That’s likely also the case that he, as Bochy puts it, goes “mano a mano” against bears.