The Kansas City Royals have won the first game of the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays. At the forefront of this victory was right-handed pitcher, Edinson Volquez, who kept the Blue Jays scoreless for the entire six innings he pitched last night. The final score of the game was 5-0, and shutting them out was a great accomplishment for Volquez and the Royals, since the Blue Jays are this year’s highest-scoring Major League Baseball team.
What’s the secret to Volquez’s success? It seems to be a mixture of hard work, self-encouragement, and confidence. Edinson writes little phrases and notes to himself on the bill of his cap before each game; phrases like “Stay aggressive” and “Three pitches or less” are some examples of the things he leaves there for himself. Not only are these there to encourage Volquez, but they also present goals for him to work towards during the games.
While we may not know exactly what words were on the inside of 32-year-old Edinson’s cap during Friday’s game, we do know that they were effective. Volquez threw a total of 111 pitches, and only two of them were actual hits. He walked four batters total and struck out five. This being Game 1 of the ALCS, a strong performance from the Royals’ pitchers was crucial, and Volquez definitely delivered. This was a huge night in his career, not only because it was a post-season game, but also because of the fact that it was against Toronto and their aggressive offense.
Ned Yost, manager of the Kansas City Royals, said that Edinson was “superb” and “had everything going on.” The opposing team’s outfielder, Ben Revere, said that he was surprised by Volquez. “He was pumped up,” Revere said. “The ball was moving a lot.”
During the regular season, Volquez had around a 93 mph average fastball, but he reached 97 mph last night as a packed stadium of almost 40,000 fans chanted “Edd-ie, Edd-ie” for him.
The adrenaline rush that comes with tens of thousands of people yelling your name must be incredible, but it seems that Edinson was already feeling pretty great before the game even started. His pitching strategy changed a bit just before the start of the game, after a discussing with Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez. Perez suggested that Volquez do the opposite of what he”d originally been planning, due to the amount of strong hitters on the Blue Jays. Salvador asked Volquez how he felt about pitching “down and away” instead.
“I feel sexy tonight,” Volquez replied, and sexy is exactly the way he pitched. His fastballs were on point but he also threw some great change-ups rather than continuing to throw it down the middle, so that things didn’t get too easy for the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays and Royals last met in an ALCS matchup in 1985, and the Royals came out victorious. Though they did not go on to win the World Series that year, they ended Toronto’s season with a 4-3 game victory. Twenty years later both teams are back and fighting to advance.
The second game of the 2015 ALCS will also be played on the Royals’ home turf, Ewing M. Kauffman Stadium, and the next three will move to Toronto. If any additional games are needed for one team to emerge victorious, the series will make its way back to Kansas City.
[Main image courtesy of Jamie Squire / Getty images]