It wouldn’t be a postseason series without some heartache, and on Saturday night, the Mets found theirs. Five outs away from tying the World Series at two games apiece, and clinging to a one-run lead, they opened the door for the Royals via a Daniel Murphy error. As they’ve done so many times in the past two postseasons, the Royals didn’t hesitate to walk through it, rallying for three runs en route to a 5–3 victory and a three-games-to-one series lead.
Here are three quick thoughts on the game:
For the second time in the series, manager Terry Collins called upon Jeurys Familia to attempt a save of more than three outs, something the Mets closer had done four times already in the postseason. And for the second time, the move backfired. Unlike Game 1, when his quick-pitch of Alex Gordon turned into a long, game-tying home run, this one was hardly his fault, though it’s certainly fair to ask why Collins was more willing to go to his closer for five outs, with traffic on the bases, than for six with a clean slate, as he was warming up at the time.
With the Mets leading 3–2 in the eighth, Familia came on to face Eric Hosmer with one out and two on after Tyler Clippard, New York’s fifth pitcher of the night, issued a pair of walks. Hosmer hit Familia’s second pitch, a 96-mph sinker on the outside edge of the plate, toward the right side of the infield. It was a tough ball to turn into a double play, but one that should have generated one out. Alas, the ball slipped under the glove of Murphy for an error, with Ben Zobrist zipping home from second with the tying run.
That was enough for the Royals to strike up another mini-conga line, as Familia proceeded to surrender RBI singles to Mike Moustakas, scoring Lorenzo Cain, and Salvador Perez, scoring Hosmer, to run the Royals’ lead to the eventual final score of 5–3.
Royals manager Ned Yost responded to the lead change by bringing in closer Wade Davis for a two-inning save, potentially his second long save of the postseason. Davis retired the Mets in order in the eighth on just 12 pitches, watched four Hansel Robles pitches go by en route to a strikeout in his first plate appearance since Aug. 2, 2013, in the top of the ninth and then had to survive an adventurous bottom of the ninth. Murphy, who had already tried to begin the process of atonement by starting an inning-ending double play to escape the eighth, bashed a one-out single off the glove of Moustakas, who was shifted over to shortstop, to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Yoenis Cespedes, who singled as well. The comeback wasn’t to be. Lucas Duda lined out to Moustakas, who threw to Hosmer at first base, doubling off Cespedes to end the game.
It was a brutal turnaround for the Mets, who had been so close to tying the series and bringing back Matt Harvey to start Game 5. It was a brutal turnaround for postseason hero Murphy as well. Though he broke a two-game hitless streak, he’s just 3 for 17 in the series after setting a postseason record with six straight games with a home run during the division series and league championship series.
Michael Conforto started his postseason with a bang. In Game 2 of the division series against the Dodgers, the 22-year-old rookie homered off Zack Greinke in his first plate appearance. Alas, it would take 20 days for the Mets’ sometime-leftfielder to collect another hit, as he endured an 0 for 20 skid in seven starts and two appearances off the bench before collecting a fourth-inning RBI single off Yordano Ventura in Game 3.
He broke out in a big way in Game 4. Starters Steven Matz and Chris Young matched zeroes for the first 2 1/2 innings—the latter running his streak of perfect frames in this World Series to five, including his Game 1 relief appearance, until Conforto led off the bottom of the third by clobbering Young’s first pitch of the inning, a center-cut 87-mph fastball, for a 395-foot home run to rightfield.
The Mets added another run in that frame. Wilmer Flores followed Conforto’s homer with a single, took second on a wild pitch, third on Matz’s sacrifice bunt and came home on Curtis Granderson’s sacrifice fly, aided by Alex Rios’s apparent absent-mindedness as to how many outs there were. The rightfielder took a couple of jog-steps toward the dugout before unleashing a throw that was too late; the Royals challenged the timing of Flores’s tag-up, albeit to no avail.
In Conforto’s next at-bat, with the Mets still leading 2–1, he greeted reliever Danny Duffy with another solo shot to lead off the fifth inning, this time on a 2–2 curveball.
That shot, estimated by Statcast at 390 feet, made the score 3–1. Via the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index, it made him the third-youngest player, at 22 years and 244 days, to hit two homers in a World Series game behind only the Braves’ Andruw Jones (19 years, 180 days) in Game 1 in 1996 and the Yankees’ Tony Kubek (21 years, 358 days) in Game 3 in 1957. Additionally, he surpassed Edgardo Alfonzo as the youngest Met to hit multiple homers in a postseason game. Alfonzo was 25 years, 331 days when he homered in Game 1 of the 1999 division series.
Conforto did have a chance to join the elite company of Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols and Pablo Sandoval as the only players to homer three times in a single World Series game. Alas, he struck out swinging against Ryan Madson in the bottom of the seventh, then was pulled in favor of Juan Lagares as part of a double-switch, with Cespedes moving from centerfield to left.
To the Matz
Making just the ninth start of his major-league career (six in the regular season, three in the postseason), the 24-year-old Matz was impressive, allowing just two runs in five-plus innings while striking out five; he gave up seven hits but didn’t walk a batter.
Through the first four innings, Matz gave up just two hits, both two-strike singles. The Royals broke through for a run in the fifth, when Cespedes tried unsuccessfully to make a shoe-string grab of Perez’s dying quail; the ball ricocheted off his leg and into leftfield for the second time in the series (Escobar’s inside-the-park home run in Game 1 was the first). This time it resulted in a double. Gordon followed with an RBI single, cutting the score to 2–1, and then one out later, Kendrys Morales pinch-hit for Young, singling as well, but Escobar flew out to end the threat.
Though Matz had thrown just 79 pitches to that point out of an expected 90 to 95, he wasn’t long for the game as the Royals went through the order for the third time. Indeed, a leadoff double by Zobrist (his eighth of the postseason, tying the Cardinals’ Pujols and David Freese, each from 2011, for the record) and an RBI single by Cain ended his night after 84 pitches. In all, Matz got eight swings and misses, four from his curve, three from his sinker and one via his changeup. The sinker was his finishing pitch on three of his five strikeouts, one swinging and two looking; the other two came via swings at his curve.
Matz wound up being the first Mets starter to surrender fewer than three runs in this series, but he needed a little help from his friends. Jonathon Niese came in and retired Hosmer and Moustakas, though Cain stole second on his watch. Bartolo Colon entered and tried to pick Cain off second, but the ball went into centerfield and the runner took third. Colon wound up winning a 10-pitch battle with Perez, striking him out on a low slider that was far off the plate.
As for Young, he pitched well aside from that third inning, where he caught a tough break via Rios’s brain cramp. He retired the Mets in order in each of his other three frames, generated five swings and misses from among his 58 pitches and struck out three. Given his success in relief in Game 1, it would hardly be a surprise to see him come out of the bullpen if this series goes back to Kansas City.