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ALCS Game #1 Preview: Blue Jays @ Royals

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Volquez recreating the Sistine Chapel painting.
Volquez recreating the Sistine Chapel painting.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Well well, after Game 2 of the ALDS I never thought I'd be writing these for another series. After the Blue Jays amazing comeback in the seventh inning of Game 5 thanks to Jose Bautista's home run, the team now faces the Kansas City Royals who created some magic of their own in the Division Series. I just plugged three other pieces in one sentence, that's got to be a record. The first game of the ALCS goes this evening at 8:07 pm EST from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and is sure to be watched by a large portion of this great country.

The pitching matchup is slightly underwhelming for such a huge series opener, but Edinson Volquez will take the hill against Marco Estrada in a battle of the third starters. Maybe that's being unfair to both hurlers though, as Volquez had the lowest ERA in the Royals rotation this season and Estrada dominated the Rangers in Game 3 of the last series. The issue, as mentioned in the opponent preview, is that Kansas City has three #2 starters but no clear ace. Anyway, Volquez made a name for himself in Cincinnati before the team found out he wasn't actually that good. He was traded to San Diego in the Mat Latos deal where he also wasn't very effective, before joining the Dodgers in mid-2013 and making a few okay starts. Then he got a cheap one-year deal last year with the Pirates where he was actually pretty dang great. Like every pitcher who goes to Pittsburgh, Volquez found himself, saved his career, and became their ace for the season. The rotation was actually so deep that the team got itself to a Wild Card Game with the Giants where they were steamrolled. Volquez started that game and made one bad mistake that put a dent in his entire season:

But one good year is all it takes to get a lucrative deal in the MLB these days, so Volquez went to free agency again this offseason and got a two-year contract plus an option totalling $20 million from the Royals. Luckily for the team, Volquez was solid again in 2015 and has more than earned his $7.5 million salary. Despite being a pitcher who enjoys the spotlight, his actual pitching style isn't so flashy. He throws a sinker, curveball, and changeup, getting a lot of ground balls and an okay amount of strikeouts.

Volquez doesn't the have great stuff to breeze through games, but he keeps hitters on their toes and always seems to avoid getting touched up too much in a start. His mid-90's sinker doesn't fool batters as much as you'd expect, but his two off-speed offerings are strong which helps him avoid too much trouble.

The Dominican pitched Game 3 of the ALDS against the Astros and actually threw a heck of a ballgame. Houston was unable to muster much of anything off the right-hander until the fifth inning where they squeaked two runs across to take the lead. The sixth inning saw Edinson allow another run to score before being lifted from the game. Despite the three runs he only allowed five hits and struck out eight which has a chance to get the job done against a lot of guys not named Keuchel, the man Volquez lost the game to on that occasion.

Observe the eight K's here, and notice how almost all of them came off his off-speed stuff:

Of course we also have to mention the fact that Edinson Volquez likes throwing at the Blue Jays. Most people will remember the game in early August where he made it his mission to hit Josh Donaldson, which eventually escalated into Aaron Sanchez throwing at Alcides Escobar and the benches clearing:

Probable Lineup

Volquez throws his changeup against hitters on both sides of the plate and is pretty split-neutral. Expect to see Justin Smoak and Dioner Navarro out there this evening:

  1. Ben Revere LF
  2. Josh Donaldson 3B
  3. Jose Bautista RF
  4. Edwin Encarnacion DH
  5. Justin Smoak 1B
  6. Troy Tulowitzki SS
  7. Dioner Navarro C
  8. Kevin Pillar CF
  9. Ryan Goins 2B
The bullpen is fairly rested after the crazy ALDS, although Aaron Sanchez is going to need to take a ballgame off eventually.

Find the Link

Find the link between Edinson Volquez and this the Blue Jay that shares a birthday with the anniversary of "Black Tuesday".

This should be an epic series with some great baseball and crazy confrontations. Enjoy!