Volquez, Royals can't overcome borderline ball call
TORONTO -- Numerous story lines developed off one pitch in the Royals' 7-1 loss to the Blue Jays in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday.
Kansas City was trailing, 1-0, in the sixth inning, when Toronto put two runners on with none out against starter Edinson Volquez, with Jose Bautista coming up.
Until that inning, Volquez had looked as sharp as he had all season, hitting 98 mph with his fastball on a few occasions, something he hadn't done all year. Through five innings, the right-hander had a pair of strikeouts and eight ground-ball outs compared to zero fly-ball outs, with the only blemish on his line score being a solo homer by Chris Colabello in the second inning.
On the final pitch of a 10-pitch at-bat against Bautista with two on in the sixth, Volquez snapped a curve that appeared to nick the outside corner at the knees for strike three as Bautista tried to hold his swing. But home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna called it ball four, loading the bases. The Blue Jays eventually broke the game open with four runs.
Volquez threw up his arms in disbelief of the 3-2 call.
"I thought it was a strike," Volquez said. "It was a good pitch, on the corner."
When the pitch reached Perez's glove and the ball four call was made, shortstop Alcides Escobar and second baseman Ben Zobrist also threw up their arms in rare forms of protest. Zobrist even jumped up and down once in disbelief.
"The pitch was a strike," Escobar said. "A strike is a strike, a ball's a ball. That was a strike."
The other narrative on the pitch was whether or not Bautista swung. Royals manager Ned Yost was screaming to Perez to appeal with first-base umpire Jeff Nelson, but because of the crowd noise, Perez couldn't hear Yost.
"Yeah, I wanted to get an appeal there, but I couldn't get anybody's attention because the crowd was so loud," Yost said. "And if those things linger, you're never going to get the call."
Perez said he didn't ask for an appeal for one simple reason.
"I thought the pitch was a strike" he said. "It was there."
Bautista also knew the call could have gone either way.
"I can say I got the benefit of a borderline call going my way," Bautista said.
Volquez said after the game that Perez told him that Iassogna admitted he made a mistake and apologized -- that statement was quickly tweeted out by many reporters. But Perez told a handful of reporters later, as the clubhouse had nearly emptied out, that that conversation never happened.
"No, [Iassogna] never say that," Perez said. "I told [Iassogna] that, 'Hey, nobody's perfect and that pitch was probably a strike.' That's all. He didn't apologize."
"It's not common practice, but it's not uncommon," crew chief John Hirschbeck said, "if you think you missed the pitch to say, 'Sorry, I missed the pitch.' But I don't know that that happened in any way, shape or form."
The other question is, of course, whether or not Volquez should have been in the game to even face Baustista. Volquez had been terrific through five innings, giving up just the one run. But Volquez walked Ben Revere to lead off the sixth and then hit Josh Donaldson with a pitch.
Kelvin Herrera was warming up and ready, but Yost stuck with Volquez, who already had induced eight ground-ball outs.
"I thought [Volquez] still had good stuff," Yost said. "We had Herrera there, but they hadn't scored. Eddie's fastball had all kinds of life. We were looking for a double-play ball, quite frankly, with all the movement on it, we just didn't get it."
Volquez then walked Edwin Encarnacion, the next hitter, forcing in a run. That also came on a borderline 3-2 pitch.
"The one to Encarnacion probably could have gone either way," Yost said. "We just didn't get the call there."
Herrera finally entered and struck out Colabello. But Troy Tulowitzki ambushed a first-pitch fastball from Herrera and roped a three-run double.
For Volquez, it was a tough way to end a day that had started with so much promise.
"I just told myself to go out there and give it everything I had," Volquez said. "It wasn't enough. But we're still in good shape."