KANSAS CITY -- Royals manager Ned Yost wanted to tell Edinson Volquez how proud he was. He wanted to tell him to call his wife, he wanted to finally reveal the heartbreaking news he had been sheltering for hours. But, as Yost later said, "It wasn't my place."
So late Tuesday night, in the middle of the sixth inning of a game the Royals would go on to win, 5-4, in 14 innings, Yost approached Volquez and uttered the only five words he felt he should:
"You pitched your [behind] off."
Volquez's father, Daniel, had passed away in the Dominican Republic at the age of 63 from complications of a heart condition, moments before his son would take the mound for Game 1 of the World Series. Volquez's wife called general manager Dayton Moore with the news, as well as explicit instructions not to reveal the information until after her husband was finished.
So Volquez gutted through six innings of three-run ball, received the news, then went home. He plans to meet the team in New York and remains lined up to pitch Game 5, if necessary.
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Following his exit, the Royals prevailed, and afterward, their hearts went out for their endearing starting pitcher.
"I mean, it's his first start in a World Series game, and his dad isn't watching," Yost said, his voice cracking. "It was hard for me to know what I knew, and to see him compete the way that he competed. It's just hard."
Only Moore, Yost and a couple of coaches knew about Volquez's father until about 90 minutes before game time, when Yost also informed his Game 4 starter, Chris Young, because he needed Young to be ready to start in case Volquez found out and couldn't go. Other than that, Yost kept quiet, initially concerned that word would leak to Volquez through social media until he finally went to the bullpen for his pregame warmup.
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In the 14th inning, though, Yost couldn't hold it any longer.
He turned to a handful of players in the dugout and told them they needed to win this one for Volquez, because the Royals had long built an identity of playing for one another and because several of his players could sympathize. Young lost his father, Charles, in September. Mike Moustakas lost his mother, Connie, in August.
"This is a family, and we respect each other's families," Moustakas said. "This is one huge family, this organization, and when someone loses a family member, that takes priority over everything that happens. Baseball's baseball. But family, things that happen like that, that's something that is more important than baseball."
Before the game, Yost conferred with bench coach Don Wakamatsu and catching coach Pedro Grifol about how to handle the situation. They all agreed to honor the family's wishes, and Yost kept a close eye on Volquez as the night went on. He saw him laughing, smiling, like he always does, and figured everything was fine.
"There's no road map," Yost said, "but you just do what the family asks you to do. It was really special to them that he goes out and pitches this game."
Volquez didn't have his best stuff. Only three of his 78 pitches resulted in swings and misses, but he competed. When the Mets put two on with two outs in the third, he struck out David Wright looking. After Curtis Granderson homered with one out in the fifth, Volquez came back to retire Wright and the red-hot Daniel Murphy. And with runners on the corners and none out in the sixth, Volquez retired three straight batters, giving up only a Michael Conforto sac fly.
Out of fear that Volquez would hear the news by watching TV in the clubhouse, the FOX broadcast didn't reveal anything until later in the game, well after Volquez had been informed.
"He pitched his heart out for this team," Yordano Ventura said.
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"I know the pain he's going through right now," added Young, who pitched five hitless innings on Sept. 27, the day after his own father died. "Certainly, he's in our thoughts and prayers."
Daniel Volquez, a mechanic in the Dominican Republic, introduced a 10-year-old Edinson to baseball and supported him throughout. Volquez often talked about his father to reliever Kelvin Herrera, who grew up nearby.
"He was a very happy person, just like his son," Herrera said. "Very charismatic, always in a good mood."
Countryman Johnny Cueto, the Game 2 starter, heard similar stories, and he was sitting with Volquez, dissecting video of Volquez's start, when a team official informed Volquez that his wife was waiting in Yost's office.
Many players found out much later. Jeremy Guthrie informed some of the pitchers in the clubhouse around the ninth inning, and others heard from members of the training staff after the game, moments after Eric Hosmer's walk-off sac fly.
Alcides Escobar fell into the latter group, and he immediately sent Volquez a text message with his condolences.
Volquez quickly responded:
Thank you for winning that game for me.