Royals rally past Mets again to win first World Series title since 1985
For the first time since 1985, the Kansas City Royals are world champions. As they did in Games 1 and 4, the Royals needed a late rally to overcome the Mets. This time, their two runs in the ninth inning undid a fantastic, dominant start by Matt Harvey and broke the hearts of Mets fans everywhere. Five more in the 12th—the go-ahead run scored by pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson, driven in by pinch-hitter Christian Colon—sent them to a 7–2 victory.
Here are three quick thoughts on the game:
The comeback kids
In Game 1, the Royals came back from deficits of 3–1 and 4–3, the latter in the ninth inning via Alex Gordon’s homer. In Game 2, they rebounded from 1–0, in Game 4, they rallied from 3–2 via a three-run eighth inning and in Game 5, they came back from a 2–0 deficit in the ninth via a crushing sequence of events that squashed the great work by Harvey. We’ll get to that, but first, it’s worth considering the winning rally.
When the top of the 12th inning rolled around, Mets manager Terry Collins called upon Addison Reed, his fourth pitcher of the night, and a reliever who had allowed just one run in 6 2/3 innings through his eight previous postseason appearances, but who had thrown 20 pitches in his scoreless Game 4 outing. Salvador Perez hit Reed’s second pitch to rightfield for a single, then yielded to the speedster Dyson, who stole second on a 2–0 pitch to Gordon and took third when Gordon grounded out.
With the pitcher’s spot due up next, Royals manager Ned Yost called on 26-year-old reserve infielder Christian Colon, who hadn’t collected a hit or even played a game since the Oct. 4 regular-season finale. Colon quickly fell behind 0–2, but on the fifth pitch of the plate appearance, a slider, he lined a single to leftfield, bringing home Dyson.
Paulo Orlando followed with a ground ball to second baseman Daniel Murphy, who for the second straight night made a crucial error. This time, the ball bounced off the heel of his glove and all hands were safe with the conga line back in force. Alcides Escobar followed with a double down the leftfield line, scoring Colon and sending Orlando to third. After an intentional walk to Ben Zobrist, Collins brought in Bartolo Colon, who served up a bases-clearing double to Lorenzo Cain, running the score to the eventual final of 7–2.
After Colon retired Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to end the top half of the inning, closer Wade Davis, who threw 27 pitches over two innings the night before, came on for the Royals and struck out Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud before yielding a single to Michael Conforto. Davis rebounded to strike out Wilmer Flores looking at a 95-mph fastball on the inside corner, and then the Royals dogpiled on the Citi Field mound while Mets fans could only look on:
Dark turn after a great night for the Dark Knight
On a night where the Mets needed Harvey to pitch like a superhero, the 26-year-old righty shut the Royals out for the first eight innings, yielding just four hits, all singles, and a walk while striking out nine. Over that span, he had just two innings where he set the side down in order, but he never allowed two base runners in the same frame and only once let a batter reach second base, that when Cain stole second in the first inning.
It was a flat-out dominant start, and yet it left Collins with an unenviable dilemma coming into the ninth inning with a 2–0 lead and his ace’s pitch count at 102: whether to call upon Jeurys Familia for a third straight night, fresh off a blown save in Game 4, or let Harvey try to finish the job himself while facing the Royals’ 3-4-5 hitters, who had accounted for five strikeouts and just two hits on the night. Collins decided to go with his ace, and he faltered. Harvey issued a leadoff walk to Cain, who again stole second (his sixth steal of the postseason), and then Hosmer followed with an RBI double, scoring Cain.
That was enough for Harvey. Familia, who had thrown nine pitches in Game 4 and 11 in Game 3, came in and retired Moustakas on a grounder to first base, but Hosmer advanced to third. Familia then got Perez to ground to David Wright at third (nearly colliding with Flores). Wright threw for the out at first, but when Hosmer bolted for home, Duda apparently tried to pay tribute to Noah Syndergaard’s opening salvo in Game 3, airmailing his throw to the backstop.
Given the Royals’ other late comebacks in this series, the rally could hardly be classified as stunning, but for a game the Mets had led since the bottom of the first inning, with a return trip to Kansas City just three outs away, it was still a shock. Once the Mets went down in order against Kelvin Herrera—pitching his third inning of relief—the Series had its second extra-innings game for the first time since 2001.
In all, Harvey threw 111 pitches, 76 for strikes. His nine strikeouts matched his postseason high, set in the NLCS opener against the Cubs, and generated 15 swings and misses, five apiece on his curve and slider, and four on his four-seam fastball, which averaged 96.7 mph and topped out at 98.9 according to Brooks Baseball. But for a bit of bad luck, he’d have been the night’s hero.
As for poor Familia, he became the first pitcher ever to blow three saves in a single World Series—a brutal result in this case, given that he retired all six hitters he faced.
Grand start, but Volquez hangs with Harvey
Some four hours before it all ended, the Mets had struck first, with Curtis Granderson hitting Royals starter Edinson Volquez’s third pitch of the game, a changeup left in the middle of the plate, for a solo homer to right centerfield. It was Granderson’s third homer of the series (he homered in Games 1 and 3), and the second time in the series that the home team has opened the game with a home run; Escobar’s inside-the-park job in Harvey’s Game 1 start was the first.
The only other World Series to feature two leadoff home runs (regardless of home or road team) was in 1969, when the Orioles’ Don Buford did so to start the bottom of Game 1 off Tom Seaver, with the Mets’ Tommy Agee returning the favor in Game 3 off Jim Palmer. All of which must mean that Harvey and Volquez are Cooperstown bound once their playing days are done.
Pitching with a heavy heart due to the death of his father prior to Game 1, Volquez held his own. After the Granderson homer, he didn’t yield another hit until the sixth, when Wright singled. Volquez did walk five in that span, one of them intentionally, and at various points, he had actually thrown more balls than strikes, but he got the benefit of two double plays and struck out five.
That sixth inning gave the Mets some breathing room, thanks in part to everybody’s old friend, Third Time Through the Order. Through his previous four postseason starts, Volquez had allowed 11 of 24 batters faced under such circumstances to reach base, five via hits and six via walks. His luck was no better here. He walked Granderson, then yielded the single to Wright and found himself in a bases-loaded, no-out jam when Hosmer couldn’t come up with Murphy’s hot smash, his second error of the series.
Yost, who has let only Volquez and Johnny Cueto reach the six-inning mark this postseason, chose not to go to his bullpen and under the circumstances, he got off light. Yoenis Cespedes, 3 for 19 for the series to that point, fouled an 0–2 pitch off his left knee and spent the next several minutes writhing in agony on the ground. With a chance—not necessarily a great one given the count, admittedly—to break the game open with an able-bodied pinch-hitter such as Kelly Johnson or Juan Uribe, Collins instead let Cespedes stay in the game once he was able to return to the upright position. The banged-up centerfielder popped up and as he limped away, it was difficult to believe that he could have run the bases had he managed a home run, to say nothing of legging out a hit—or avoiding a double play—if he made contact. He later exited the game. As it was, Duda flew out to centerfield, bringing home Granderson with an unearned run, but d’Arnaud grounded out to end the threat.
For the night, Volquez generated eight swings and misses from among his 90 pitches, four on his changeup, three on his sinker and one on his knuckle-curve. The sinker was the finishing pitch for three of his strikeouts (one looking), with the changeup and knuckle-curve each accounting for one as well.
Once he departed, Hererra, Luke Hochevar and Davis combined for six shutout innings, allowing only two hits and a walk while striking out six. The vaunted Royals bullpen put up zeroes over its final 10 frames in Games 4 and 5, shutting the door when they had to. Had the Mets been able to approach such a performance, they’d still be playing.