Volquez sidetracked by nightmare fifth inning
HOUSTON -- With injuries hitting the Royals' rotation hard during the past month, it's been veteran Edinson Volquez who's been the steady hand.
Volquez looked the part again for 3 2/3 innings against the Astros on Wednesday night, but it all came undone as he labored in a four-run fifth inning that was ultimately his final frame in the 6-5 loss at Minute Maid Park.
"I just left a couple pitches up, got high in some counts and hung some secondary pitches," Volquez said.
It was pretty clearly Volquez's worst start of the season, and a somewhat surprising one at that. He entered 6-0 with a 2.09 ERA against the Astros in his career.
Instead of following that path, the five runs Volquez allowed was the most he's surrendered this season in 16 starts.
Then again, this isn't the Astros' lineup Volquez has faced for much of the past half-decade. It's filled with power and tenacious running on the basepaths, as evidenced by Chris Carter's off-the-fist homer in the fourth and a first-to-third run by George Springer that ultimately set up Evan Gattis' go-ahead two-run single in the fifth.
"They're hot right now," Volquez said. "Especially at home, they know how to hit here."
The start was especially frustrating for Volquez because he was shutting the Astros down in the early innings. The right-hander felt like he had his best stuff of the season for a while.
"I was like, 'Wow, I just feel great tonight,' and kept pounding the zone," he said. "Throwing my breaking pitches for strikes and just everything was good."
Even as Volquez struggled in a 29-pitch fifth inning, there was no qualms from manager Ned Yost about leaving the righty in with the game tied at 3 and Gattis up to bat.
Part of that had to do with Volquez's mastery of Gattis in his first two at-bats, but Yost also felt it was too early to yank the veteran, who has been nothing if not tenacious this season.
"I stuck with him because it was the fifth inning, and he still had pitches in his tank." Yost said. "I'm not going to run out and get a starting pitcher in that situation."
Volquez didn't take a loss, instead getting a no-decision thanks to Jarrod Dyson's game-tying triple in the seventh. Volquez still hasn't dropped a decision since June 5, a stretch of six starts.
But a decision was a bit besides the point for Volquez on Wednesday night. The Royals sustained a sweep, and it came on a night when Volquez, for all intents and purposes, felt in control, but still left trailing.
"Sometimes, you get mad because you pitch so well and have your stuff working and then it's all gone when they score four runs against you in one inning," he said.
"That's frustrating for a pitcher, but they're just a really good team right now, too."