Sometimes man, you just have to hang in there.
I never thought I would use that image in an article, but hey that's what makes this world so interesting right? The unexpected.
Edinson Volquez just couldn't hang in there in the sixth inning yesterday. Volquez was kind of cruising along okay, getting into some trouble but getting out of it. He allowed a solo shot to Chris Colabello in the second inning to put the Jays out to a 1-0 lead.
Not saying Colabello deserved to hit a home run here, but Volquez certainly made it easy on him with an 87 MPH changeup near the middle of the plate. Volquez kind of put it behind him then continued to cruise along, allowing a hit or two but always wiggling out of it.
Then the sixth inning came around and turned a one run ballgame into a five run game before even two outs could be recorded. Volquez started off Ben Revere with a changeup called for strike one. He followed that with a 0-1 curveball.
Volquez was getting squeezed a bit all game on the right side of the plate and ball one was pretty close to being strike two. Next came a 1-1 fastball that sent Revere back and Jays fans started booing thinking ill intent by Volquez.
From that angle the ball doesn't look particularly close to the zone, but in reality it might have been a strike given the modern zone.
If Volquez gets two borderline calls his way, Ben Revere walks bat to the bench bat in hand without even swinging As fate would have it though, Volquez wouldn't throw another pitch close to the zone. He'd get Revere to swing and foul off a pitch away, but proceeded to throw two pitches well off the plate. Revere would trot down to first base with a dangerous lead off walk.
The next batter would end in a similar result, the batter walking down to first, but it took many fewer pitches. Volquez would let a 95 MPH fastball fly and it hit Donaldson.
Obviously no ill intent here, but Jays fans weren't too happy. I'm sure the Blue Jays (Josh Donaldson included) were okay with two men on and no outs if all it took was a hit by pitch to do so.
You might recall though a similar incident back in August when Volquez hit Donaldson on another mid-90's fastball (94 MPH). Intent on that one? Maybe as it came during a certainly tumultuous series between the two clubs.
Volquez then followed that up in the 3rd inning with another possibly ill intent pitch.
Needless to say, Volquez probably shouldn't hit Donaldson anymore with pitches, on purpose or not.
Back to the present though, the Jays had two men on with no one out and up came Jose Bautista and maybe the most controversial plate appearance of the day.
Volquez started Bautista off with a 96 MPH fastball to get ahead in the count.
We can tell by Bautista's reaction he thought it was a ball. A pretty common event in the life of Jose Bautista at the plate.
After a 1-0 ball, Volquez would come back with a 1-1 fastball at 97 MPH, still pumping heat after 75 pitches.
To the eye, this one doesn't look so bad and looked similar to some other borderline calls home plate umpire Dan Iassogna made on the day.
You can just faintly see the ball on the right half of the plate there away to Bautista. Was it a 50/50 call? No, probably lower than that (for a strike). An inch more to the left though, maybe even a few centimeters, and it might have been a strike. Iassogna would call it a ball and Volquez was behind in the count 2-1.
On 2-1 Volquez would continue to try to nibble and paint the edges on Bautista with his fastball, this time at 97 MPH.
Volquez was clearly working away to Bautista this entire at bat. The heart of the Blue Jays order has massive power and hits inside pitches very well. Trying to paint the edges means you are probably going to need to get some fortuitous calls every few pitches. Volquez didn't at all this plate appearance. The 2-1 pitch here looks good to the eye again, but Pitch F/X had it pretty cleanly outside the zone to make the count 3-1.
Now begins the fun part of the plate appearance. Volquez can't throw Bautista another ball to walk the bases loaded. Remember that the Blue Jays are one pitch away from having the proverbial ducks on the pond and they haven't even had to put a ball in play. In fact they've only swung at one pitch so far this entire inning.
That would change. In fact, Bautista would swing at the next five pitches Volquez throws. All of them fastballs.
Volquez was just rearing back and challenging Bautista to hit his fastball. Jose was either off on it by a fraction of a second or timed it well but got underneath it. The sequence of this plate appearance:
You'd have to expect Volquez to try to catch him with an offspeed changeup, but instead he kept heating them in there and Bautista couldn't put it in play.
Finally it would end as Volquez threw this pitch:
Volquez is a notoriously poor pitch framer and he certainly didn't do Volquez any favors there. Here's where that ball crossed according the Pitch F/X and the modern strike zone
Here's where it was according to the rule book zone:
So by the rule book, that's pretty clearly a ball. However by the way umpire call the zone in the modern game it's probably a strike, though it's not crazy that Iassogna called it a ball either. He did call it a ball, and Bautista walked to first to load the bases.
Not only was the pitch location close, but Jose Bautista check his swing. From the replay it looks like he did in fact go around:
Though it took a moment, the Royals appealed on the check swing. Because they took too long to appeal the check swing though, the umpires never actually ruled on the appeal and Bautista may have gotten away with a strikeout. Again, the Blue Jays loaded the bases with no outs and didn't even have to put a ball in play.
At this point Ned Yost probably should have brought in Kelvin Herrera. Actually, Herrera probably should have been in a batter or two ago as Volquez was starting the third time through the order. Herrera wasn't up to start the inning and only started getting ready after Volquez put two runners on.
Eddy battled back though and got the next batter, Edwin Encarnacion, to a 1-2 count challenging him in the zone to put a ball in play. Eventually though Encarnacion wouldn't see another strike and walked three pitches later.
Like against Bautista, Volquez was working away to the right hander trying to stay away from the inside power. The Encarnacion walk would bring home a run and the Jays lead 2-0. Four consecutive batters reached safely, and a run scored without the Jays never having to put the ball in play.
Here's how Volquez pitched the right handed batters that inning
Fastballs, a lot of them, and working away. Volquez was trying his best not to put anything in the zone early in the count for the Jays to hit hard, and the majority of the pitches in the zone came during the sequence of fastballs where he challenged Bautista on 3-2 and had to throw a strike.
Kelvin Herrera was finally brought in after some preliminary damage was done to load the bases with none out. The early game hero Chris Colabello came up and promptly went down on three pitches: two near 100 MPH fastballs and a changeup. Colabello stood no chance. He swung and miss on the first pitch, swung and fouled the changeup, then swung through an 0-2 99 MPH fastball in the zone. Still no balls in play by the way. The Royals threw 20 pitches to the Jays batters so far and not a one was touched by a fielder.
Unfortunately for the Royals, pitch number 21 was put into play.
Tulowitzki drove a first pitch fastball at 99 MPH to left center and cleared the bases. Volquez loaded the bases, and Herrera unloaded them. Just like that, one pitch, the Royals were down five runs and at long odds to win this game.
Things could have possibly been different this inning. Maybe Volquez could have gotten the call on the Bautista ball four. Maybe the umpires could have said Bautista swung at the pitch. Maybe Volquez should have gotten the calls during the Revere at bat early on for the strikeout. Maybe I should be taller and more handsome. Maybe...