NEW YORK -- Royals starter Edinson Volquez spoke to his late father, Daniel, on the drive to Citi Field on Sunday. He told his dad he was pitching that night's game because he knew it's what he would've wanted him to do. Volquez could swear he heard Daniel telling him to have fun, to enjoy the game, like he always has. And when he left the bullpen and walked onto the field for the start of World Series Game 5, Volquez could feel his father right beside him.
Five days after Daniel passed away at the age of 63, Volquez somehow mustered the strength to take the mound in front of a sold-out opposing crowd and the resolve to limit the Mets to two runs in six innings.
He gave up a leadoff homer, threw 48 of his 90 pitches for balls, loaded the bases with none out in the sixth, and still gave his team a chance to come back late and win it all.
Volquez's pitching coach, Dave Eiland, kept going back to one word.
"Unbelievable," Eiland said. "Unbelievable. To step up and do what he did in the stage he did it, under those circumstances, I have the utmost respect for him. I'm so happy for him and his family. I mean, words really can't describe what I feel about him and what he did. Unbelievable."
Volquez took his right index finger and etched his father's initials -- "D.V." -- on the back of the mound. The same was written on the inside of his cap, to honor the man who bought him his first glove and took him to his first game and told him to follow his dreams.
Daniel, who died of complications from a heart condition, weighed heavily on Volquez's mind in the moments leading up to the most important start of his life. Then Volquez did his best to separate all that, because, "If not," he said, "you get full of emotion and you can't do the job.
"I didn't think so much about him once the game started," Volquez said, "but I did know that he was with me."
Volquez hung an 0-2 changeup to the game's first batter, Curtis Granderson, and watched it sail over the fence in right-center field. The 32-year-old right-hander came back to retire 13 of the next 17 batters to pitch into the sixth inning with only one run allowed, then loaded the bases with none out in the sixth and gave up only one more run.
"I think my dad might have helped me there," Volquez said, a big smile on his face.
Volquez barely missed inside on a full-count fastball to Granderson to start the inning, leading to his fifth walk. David Wright followed with a sharp single to left -- the second and only hit the Mets would get off Volquez -- and Daniel Murphy hit a sharp grounder off the glove of Eric Hosmer that went for an error and filled up the bases.
Volquez was clearly beside himself. So Royals catcher Salvador Perez stepped out of his crouch and urged Eiland to follow him to the mound.
"Stay focused on what you have to do," Perez told Volquez. "You're the best pitcher in the world."
Volquez got Yoenis Cespedes -- significantly hobbled from a foul ball he took off his left knee -- to hit a harmless infield popup. Lucas Duda followed with a sacrifice fly, and Travis d'Arnaud grounded out, putting the Royals' deficit at only 2-0 with nine outs left to make up the difference.
On the field after their comeback and triumph, Perez said: "Everything we did tonight is for Edinson Volquez."
"I think my dad would be proud right now," Volquez said, a champagne bottle in his left hand and goggles on his face. "My whole family."
Volquez's father died on Tuesday, hours before his son was slated to pitch Game 1 of the World Series. Volquez didn't find out until after he pitched six innings of three-run ball. His wife wanted it that way. She informed him after he came out of his start and then they went home, moments before his team would go on to win, 5-4, in 14 innings.
The following day, Volquez attended his father's funeral in the Dominican Republic. He landed in New York on Saturday, drove straight to the ballpark, joined his Royals teammates right before the first pitch of Game 4 and assured his manager, Ned Yost, that he was ready to pitch. Volquez barely had a chance to take it all in.
"It's been tough for me," he said of these last five days. "When you lose somebody in your family, it's really tough. You always keep it in the back of your mind, in the back of your heart, especially pitching a baseball game. It's a lot of people. I know my entire family was watching the game tonight. I was able to make my family proud."
Volquez made them proud by channeling his emotions, by overcoming adversity and by putting his heart on the line under the most trying of circumstances. Afterward, he was asked what his father would say if he were still here.
"He'd be jumping around, enjoying all this," Volquez said. "He'd probably be next to me."