Royals Take Opener, Mets-Cubs Next

first_imgKANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) — Kansas City’s Edinson Volquez and three relievers combined to shut out the potent Toronto batting order and give the Royals a 5-0 win against the Blue Jays in Friday’s opening game of the American League Championship SeriesVolquez ramped up his fastball to 155 kph (97 mph) to slice through the Blue Jays offense, never allowing a runner past second base over six innings. His only trouble occurred when he walked the first two batters in the sixth, but he wiggled out of it without any damage.“Tonight was the Volquez show. He was tremendous,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “He shut down a good-hitting team, I know that. His ball was ducking and darting everywhere.”The Royals’ bullpen finished off the club’s eighth consecutive ALCS victory.Salvador Perez — with a towering homer — Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain drove in runs off Toronto starter Marco Estrada, while Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales tacked on two more off LaTroy Hawkins to put the game away.The Blue Jays’ three hits were their fewest ever in a playoff game.As if the outcome wasn’t bad enough for them, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion left in the eighth inning to get X-rays on the middle finger of his left hand. The initial report was a strain of the ligament and Encarnacion was listed as day-to-day.The Royals will try to take a 2-0 series lead when they send Yordano Ventura to the mound on Saturday. Toronto will counter with former Cy Young Award winner David Price.The teams entered the best-of-seven series with plenty of history.To start with, the defending AL champion Royals beat Toronto in the 1985 league championship series. But far more recently was the tense, benches-clearing game that the teams played at Rogers Centre in August.Volquez was right in the thick of things then.The veteran starter kept pitching the Blue Jays inside, finally hitting Josh Donaldson with a fastball in the first inning. Tensions escalated as the game went on, with Toronto reliever Aaron Sanchez returning the favor by hitting Escobar to trigger a benches-clearing scuffle.Afterward, Volquez said Donaldson was “crying like a baby” over his inside approach.Volquez had initially planned to pitch inside again on Friday before having his mind changed by a conversation with catcher Perez.“We know they got a lot of pull hitters over there, and power hitters, and he told me, ‘How you feel pitching down and away?’ And I said, ‘I feel sexy tonight,’” Volquez said.“And he was like, ‘All right, we’re changing the plan right now. We’re pitching those guys away.’”After squandering a scoring chance in the first inning, the Royals jumped ahead in the third. Alex Gordon led off with a double, Escobar sent an RBI double down the right-field line, and Cain’s two-out single helped Kansas City — so accustomed to playing from behind — to a 2-0 lead.Perez added his third homer of the postseason on the first pitch he saw in the fourth.Volquez did not allow a hit until his 56th pitch, when Chris Colabello chopped a single up the middle with two outs in the fourth. It snapped a postseason hitless streak of 10 2-3 innings for the Royals, one out shy of matching the record set by the New York Yankees in 1939.The biggest of the Blue Jays’ big bats made the quietest outs, too.Jose Bautista went down looking in the fourth inning, while Encarnacion struck out looking in the sixth. Donaldson managed a walk off Volquez but little else, while Troy Tulowitzki — one of the Blue Jays’ big mid-season acquisitions — went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.“It is extremely important to win the opener,” Hosmer said. “There’s only so many crazy comebacks you can pull off in a postseason. It was nice to get out to a lead tonight.”DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img

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