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Edinson Volquez shuts down Blue Jays as Royals take ALCS Game 1

Edinson Volquez of the Kansas City Royals throws

Edinson Volquez of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during Game 1 of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on Oct. 16, 2015 in Kansas City, Mo. Credit: Getty Images / Rob Carr

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Edinson Volquez had been front and center in the fireworks show that erupted the previous time these teams met.

The Royals righthander hit Josh Donaldson in an Aug. 2 game at Rogers Centre and, after a Blue Jays victory that included a bench-clearing incident, he fanned the flames by accusing the third baseman of "crying like a baby" to the plate umpire.

Aggressively and relentlessly pitching inside created many of the issues that Sunday afternoon, but when Volquez and catcher Salvador Perez left the bullpen before ALCS Game 1 on Friday night, Perez hatched an alternative game plan for the powerful Blue Jays.

"We know they have a lot of pull hitters over there and power hitters," Volquez said with a smile. "He asked me, 'How do you feel about pitching down and away?' I said, 'I feel sexy tonight.' And he said, 'Then that's the plan.' "

It was a good one.

Volquez, who had been 0-3 with an 8.76 ERA in the postseason, shut down the majors' top offense in his six innings, helping the Royals to a 5-0 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 39,753 at Kauffman Stadium.

"Tonight was the Volquez show," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, whose team, which led the majors with 232 homers, was shut out only five times during the regular season. "He shut down a good-hitting team. His ball was ducking and darting everywhere."

The Royals are three victories away from returning to the World Series, where they lost a seven-game thriller to the Giants a year ago. In 45 previous ALCS matchups, the team that has won Game 1 has gone on to win 28 times (62 percent), including the Royals last season.

Volquez, a free-agent signing before the season who went 13-9 with a 3.55 ERA, allowed two hits and four walks, striking out five. His most effective pitch was his two-seam fastball. "That's the best we've seen him all year," teammate Eric Hosmer said.

Volquez's most critical inning was a 37-pitch sixth. With a 3-0 lead, he walked Donaldson and Jose Bautista, each on nine pitches. But he struck out Edwin Encarnacion looking, got Chris Colabello to line to left and -- with the crowd chanting "Eddie! Eddie!" -- struck out Troy Tulowitzki looking at a 95-mph fastball.

"The key for that inning, I think," Volquez said, "is don't panic."

The Royals' bullpen, one of baseball's best, continued the shutout. Kelvin Herrera, featuring 100-mph fastballs, threw a perfect nine-pitch seventh. Ryan Madson allowed a one-out single and walked Bautista with one out in the eighth but got Justin Smoak -- pinch hitting for Encarnacion, who left the game to get X-rays on the middle finger of his left hand -- to pop out. Colabello grounded into a force for the third out.

Gibbons said the X-rays were negative but that Encarnacion, who had 39 homers this season, is questionable for Saturday afternoon's Game 2. "Hopefully he can go," Gibbons said.

After the Royals made it 5-0 against LaTroy Hawkins in the eighth on an RBI double by Hosmer and a sacrifice fly by Kendrys Morales, Luke Hochevar worked a scoreless ninth.

Blue Jays righthander Marco Estrada, who won ALDS Game 3 when the Blue Jays were facing elimination, was OK Friday night. He allowed three runs and six hits, including Perez's two-out solo homer in the fourth, in 51/3 innings.

The Royals had eight hits, with leadoff man Alcides Escobar doubling in his first two at-bats. Doubles by Alex Gordon and Escobar and a two-out RBI single by Lorenzo Cain gave the Royals a 2-0 lead in the third.

But, as Gibbons said, the night belonged to Volquez.

"Eddie was superb today," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He had everything going on."


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