KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The raging party that erupted in Toronto after the Blue Jays’ dramatic win in Game 5 of their American League division series against the Texas Rangers may have come at a short-term cost.
Long after that clinching game, Blue Jays players celebrated their emotional victory, which most of them labeled the greatest of their careers.
Two days later, they could not follow it up with a win in Game 1 of the league championship series. Whether it was a natural letdown, a kind of hangover effect or just the noticeably strong pitching of Edinson Volquez, the Blue Jays looked doomed from the start.
Of course, the Kansas City Royals also partied on Wednesday when they won their Game 5 over the Houston Astros. But their celebration was more subdued, and they did not have to travel the next day, as the Blue Jays did.
And for the first time in three games, the Blue Jays did not have to play with the crisp urgency of a team facing elimination.
So, when the championship series began Friday, the Royals were the sharper team, and it showed as they beat the Blue Jays, 5-0.
“That was the different thing coming to the ballpark today,” Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. “We weren’t faced with elimination, whereas the last three games we were. So it was obviously a different feeling. They got Game 1, but it’s not time to hit the panic button.”
Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon, with the Royals’ Yordano Ventura set to take on David Price, who has never won a postseason start.
“I don’t think we necessarily played our best game,” the third baseman Josh Donaldson said, “But you have to give their pitchers credit.”
What surprised the Blue Jays the most about Game 2 was not the carry-over effect from Game 5, which they tended to play down. It was the opposing pitcher and his increased velocity.
Volquez usually throws his fastball between 93 and 94 miles per hour, but on Friday it was a tick higher, especially when the fans chanted, “Eddie, Eddie,” to pump him up for the most important pitches.
“Someone was telling me I was throwing 96 and 97,” Volquez said. “But hearing it from the fans, it’s a lot of energy.”
Volquez pitched six scoreless innings and held the Blue Jays — the best offensive team in the regular season — to two hits. The visitors struck a few balls very hard, but often on a line directly to fielders. The closest the Blue Jays came to a rally was via bases on balls.
In the sixth inning, Volquez walked the first two batters but struck out Edwin Encarnacion, got Chris Colabello to line out on a full-count pitch and then struck out Tulowitzki looking at strike three, also on a full count.
Volquez threw 37 pitches in the inning but did not yield a run.
Worse for the Blue Jays, Encarnacion left the game with soreness in his left middle finger. He had X-rays taken, which showed no serious injury, but he has been playing through soreness in the finger for weeks.
“Usually, a day or two, it calms down and he’s able to get through it,” Toronto Manager John Gibbons said. “We’ll see. It’s an early game tomorrow. Hopefully he’ll be ready to go.”
If the Blue Jays could not find a productive hit, the Royals did. Catcher Salvador Perez hit a bases-empty home run off Marco Estrada in the fourth, and Kansas City tacked on two insurance runs in the eighth inning.
The Royals, who won the pennant last year, arrived in this series thanks in part to a dramatic comeback in Game 4 of their division series with the Houston Astros. They finished off that series in a fairly routine Game 5 at home on Wednesday, just hours after the Blue Jays won one of the most exciting games in their history.
On that day, Toronto overcame a controversial call that gave the Rangers the go-ahead run in the seventh, and then scored four runs in the bottom of the inning, the last three coming on Jose Bautista’s laser-shot home run.
Bautista did not fare as well Friday, going 0 for 1 with three walks as the Royals pitched very carefully to him.
There was not nearly as much emotion or energy in this game, at least for the Blue Jays.
The Royals, however, showed their aggressive intent at the outset when Alcides Escobar swung at the first pitch of the game from Estrada and drove it into the left-field corner for a double.
They scored in the third when Alex Gordon led off with a double to right field. Estrada struck out Alex Rios, but Escobar punched a low line drive down the first-base line and into right field for a double as Gordon scored with ease.
One out later, Lorenzo Cain found a hole on the right side of the infield and pushed a hit through it to score Escobar as the Royals eased comfortably into a 2-0 lead.
The lead increased to 3-0 when Perez drove a two-out offering from Estrada over the wall in left field, and Volquez could pitch the rest of the way with a comfortable lead, which every pitcher enjoys.
“Best feeling in the world,” Volquez said.