A death in the family that went unacknowledged for three hours of the broadcast, a first-pitch inside-the-park home run, technical difficulties that knocked out the Fox broadcast feed and briefly stopped play on the field, strange hops, enough extra innings to be the longest Game 1 in World Series history and the winning run scored by the inside-the-park guy—Game 1 of the 2015 World Series had a junk drawer full of weirdness. At the heart of it, though, was a tight, see-saw contest that was won by the Royals 5-4 in 14 innings and five hours and nine minutes.
Here are three quick thoughts on the not-so-quick game:
Esky magic to the extreme
Hot off winning the ALCS MVP award and increasingly notorious for swinging at the first pitch of the game—almost invariably a fastball over the plate—Alcides Escobar lucked into an inside-the-park home run when Matt Harvey sent a 95-mph pitch down Broadway on his first pitch. Escobar hit a fly ball to deep left centerfield where Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto appeared to have some miscommunication or concern over colliding. Cespedes reached his left arm behind him in an attempt to glove the ball, but it instead hit off his leg and rolled far into leftfied as Escobar circled the bases, crossing the plate standing up to give the Royals a 1–0 lead. The homer ran Escobar’s postseason hitting streak to 11 games.
The last time a team opened a game with an inside-the-park home run was more than a century ago in Game 2 of the inaugural World Series in 1903, when the Boston Americans’ Patsy Dougherty circled the bases against the Pirates. Like Escobar and the Royals, Dougherty and the Americans (late the Red Sox) were at home. That was the second of the 10 previous inside-the-park home runs in World Series play, the last of which happened a mere 86 years ago:
Oct. 1, 1903
Oct. 2, 1903
Oct. 9, 1916
Oct. 11, 1917
Oct. 10, 1923
Oct. 13, 1923
Oct. 14, 1923
Oct. 3, 1926
Oct. 7, 1928
Oct. 12, 1929
Escobar would go on to figure in the game-winning play. Harvey recovered from that mini-debacle to throw six solid innings, allowing three runs while throwing 80 pitches. His stuff did not dazzle; he netted seven swings and misses but struck out just two. After putting two men on with one out in the second inning—Salvador Perez via a single, Alex Gordon via a walk—he settled down and retired the next 11 Royals in a row, carrying him through the fifth inning on just 65 pitches. That streak ended when Ben Zobrist doubled down the rightfield line on the first pitch of the sixth inning, a 94-mph fastball. Two pitches later, Lorenzo Cain singled, and while Zobrist was held up by third base coach Mike Jirschele, he came home on Eric Hosmer’s sacrifice fly. A Cain steal of second and a Mike Moustakas single tied the game at 3–3, and while Harvey escaped without further damage, that was his final frame.
One of those two strikeouts—Kendrys Morales looking in the top of the fifth—went unseen by U.S. viewers. The Fox Sports truck’s generators lost power, resulting in the broadcast being sent first to the FS1 studio and then to the MLB Network international feed, where Matt Vasgersian was doing play-by-play with John Smoltz as opposed to Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci. Play on the field was even suspended for about five minutes because of the lack of TV feeds to facilitate instant replay, though order was restored within an inning.
Volquez’s heavy heart
Less than half an hour before game time, news broke that Royals Game 1 starter Edinson Volquez’s father died in the Dominican Republic earlier in the day at 63 due to heart disease. Conflicting information circulated as to whether the 32-year-old righty was aware of his father’s death when he took the mound, with the Royals’ PR department telling The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga no, but ESPN Deportes’ Enrique Rojas reporting that the pitcher found out on the way to Kauffman Stadium. The Fox booth made no mention of the situation until the top of the eighth inning, despite it being primetime-ready, heartstring-tugging drama. According to Joe Buck, it was Volquez’s wife’s wish that her husband not be told until after he pitched, and the network chose to honor that on the off chance he might hear the TV in the clubhouse.
Amid those surreal and nearly unimaginable circumstances, Volquez pitched well, zipping through the first two innings using a combined 19 pitches and hitting 96–97 mph. He didn't allow a base runner until two outs into the third inning, when he hit Kelly Johnson and then walked Curtis Granderson; he escaped by striking out David Wright looking at an 85-mph changeup on the outside corner of the plate.
Nonetheless, that marked the point at which the Mets began catching up to Volquez, as they opened the fourth with a leadoff single by Daniel Murphy (who wound up homerless, ending his record-setting streak at six), then one-out singles by Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud, the latter of which was batted down by third baseman& Moustakas but could not prevent the tying run from scoring.
In his three previous postseason starts, Volquez had proven particularly susceptible to struggling the third time through the opposing lineup, allowing two hits and six walks to the 16 batters he’d faced under those circumstances. The problem reared its head again on Tuesday night when Granderson kicked off the third time through with a solo homer down the rightfield line, giving the Mets a 2–1 lead with one out in the fifth. Volquez went on to surrender hits to the first two batters of the sixth, with Cespedes scoring on a Conforto sacrifice fly to stretch the lead to 3–1. A diving play by Moustakas on a hot smash down the line by Wilmer Flores, resulting in a putout at first, prevented Duda from scoring.
That was it for Volquez, whose six innings matched his longest stint of the postseason. He threw 78 pitches, struck out three and walked just one, that after walking four apiece in each of his first three postseason starts. Whether or not he knew about his father’s passing, he can hold his head high given his huge performance opposite Matt Harvey.
The Mets took the lead in the top of the eighth inning thanks to Juan Lagares, who had entered the game in the bottom of the sixth in place of Conforto, bumping Cespedes to left. With two outs, Lagares won a nine-pitch battle with reliever Kelvin Herrera, hitting a 98-mph fastball back up the middle for a single, then swiped second when the hard-throwing hurler went to his breaking ball. Flores followed with a hot smash to first base that Hosmer, a two-time Gold Glove winner, misplayed into an error. The ball whizzed past him into rightfield as Lagares sprinted home, the first unearned run scored against the Royals in 136 innings.
The Royals threatened to counter when Zobrist led off the bottom of the eighth against Tyler Clippard with another double. He got as far as third base before closer Jeurys Familia came on to retire Moustakas on an infield grounder to end the threat. Kansas City did tie it in the bottom of the ninth when Gordon hit a 97-mph fastball for a solo shot to dead centerfield, 438 feet—the first blown save and first homer allowed by Familia since July 30, and the fastest pitch hit for a homer by Gordon since 2011 according to Daren Willman of BaseballSavant.com. To that point, Familia had allowed just two hits in 10 shutout innings this postseason, and he was attempting to complete his fourth long save of more than three outs.
Scoreless innings by Wade Davis and Ryan Madson for Kansas City plus two from Jon Niese for New York set up a marquee duel of sorts among comeback kings: Chris Young for the Royals and Bartolo Colon for the Mets, each making their World Series debuts and primed to pitch multiple frames. The 36-year-old Young, the Royals’ scheduled starter for Game 4, broke 90 mph with his fastball for the first time since 2009, struck out the side in the 12th and notched three hitless and scoreless frames over the course of 53 pitches, allowing just one walk. The 42-year-old Colon had a tougher time, for he quickly found himself in a jam. Paulo Orlando reached on an infield single to third base when Duda couldn’t pick Wright’s throw out of the dirt. Escobar sacrificed him to second, and intentional walks of Zobrist and Hosmer sandwiched around a groundout loaded the bases. Speedster Jarrod Dyson, who probably stood a chance of getting a drag bunt far enough down the line to beat out and plate the winning run, instead flew out harmlessly to end the threat.
Colon had to dodge trouble again in the 13th, retiring Orlando with two outs and Moustakas on second, but he couldn’t survive a third threat. A throwing error by Wright put Escobar, who actually laid off two strike-zone fastballs to start his at-bat, on first to lead off the 14th, a single to rightfield by Zobrist sent Escobar to third and after an intentional walk of Cain, Hosmer’s fly ball to rightfield plated the winning run, though Granderson’s throw made it close.
With that, a chance at history was missed, for the game was the third longest in World Series history: Game 2 in 1916 between the Red Sox and Dodgers (winning pitcher: Babe Ruth with a complete game) finished with one out in the bottom of the 14th inning, and Game 3 in 2005 between the White Sox and Astros went the full 14. In terms of time, it was the second-longest at 5:09, behind only Chicago and Houston’s 5:41. We’re guessing the Royals won’t complain.