TORONTO — High-pressure playoff starts don't faze Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada. Watching from the dugout is a different matter, however.
"I'm enjoying pitching a lot more than I am sitting back and watching games," Estrada said prior to Game 4 of the ALCS against Kansas City on Tuesday. "I get more nervous watching a game because there's nothing I can do about it.
"You have to sit back and you root these guys on and you cheer for them as much as you can, but you can't help them on the field. So when I'm on the mound it's a lot of fun for me. I enjoy it and I'm just having fun being on the mound. Not so much watching, but actually pitching."
The Toronto right-hander has been given some tough assignments in the playoffs, showing a cool head.
He started Game 3 of the ALDS, helping the Jays stave off elimination against Texas in a 5-1 win at Globe Life Park Arlington.
And he was handed the ball for Game 1 of the ALCS, won 5-0 by the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Estrada is due to start Game 5 on Wednesday against Royals right-hander Edinson Volquez in a rematch of Game 1. Depending on Tuesday's outcome, Toronto could go into the game even in the series at 2-2 or facing elimination against down 3-1.
In Game 1, Volquez limited the Jays to two hits over six innings with five strikeouts and four walks.
"He couldn't have pitched any better," said Toronto manager John Gibbons.
"Really it was just that he was so good he dominated us. There wasn't a whole lot you could do about it," he added. "(Wednesday) if he's on, just like he was the other night, it's going to be real tough again. So hopefully he's not quite as good and maybe make a few mistakes, and then hopefully you don't miss them. But he was that good."
Royals manager Ned Yost is hoping for a repeat performance from Volquez.
"He's proven that he's capable of doing it," he said. "That's why this game is so wonderful, it's not a cookie-cutter game. You don't know what you're going to get until you get out there, find out what's working and how your command is, and if you're duplicating your mechanics, and being able to repeat. We'll find out (Wednesday)."
The 32-year-old Estrada gave up three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings in Game 1. While he struck out six and walked none, he complained afterwards that he had trouble locating his fastball.
"It was just one of those days for me," he said.
He's worked on the pitch in the bullpen since and says he feels good about it.
Estrada (13-8 with a 3.13 ERA during the regular season) has quietly had a career year. He led the majors by holding opponents to hitting .183 after the all-star break and ranked fourth over the whole season at .203.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press