By Scott MacLean
The Kansas City Royals sit atop of the baseball world, topping the New York Mets 4 games to 1 in Major League Baseball’s World Series.
The title is the Royal’s franchises second, following their 1985 win. The Mets defeat was their second since their last title in 1986, following their loss to the cross-town rival Yankees in the 2000 fall classic. The matchup was also the first between teams created in baseball’s expansion era (since 1960). The Mets began play in 1962, returning National League baseball to the city after the Giants and Dodgers both left for the West Coast after the 1957 season. The Royals began play in 1969, a year after the Athletics franchise, which arrived in 1955 from Philadelphia, moved to Oakland.
The Series got off to a flyer, with Royals leadoff man Alcides Escobar hitting an inside-the-park home run (with an assist off the boot of Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes) on the first pitch from Matt Harvey. The Mets rebounded to score three runs off Royals starter Edinson Volquez (who only found out after he’d left the game that his father had passed away in the Dominican Republic that morning) including a fifth inning homer by Curtis Granderson, only for Kansas City to tie it at 3 in the bottom of the sixth. The Mets took the lead again in the eighth when an error by first baseman Eric Hosmer allowed Juan Lagares to score, only for closer Jeurys Familia to blow the save when Alex Gordon blasted a home run to centerfield in the bottom of the ninth. The game remained scoreless in extras until the bottom of the 14th, when Escobar reached on an error and was driven home on a sacrifice fly by Hosmer.
Game 2 was all about Royals starter Johnny Cueto, though the Mets struck first when Lucas Duda drove in David Wright. Kansas City struck back with a series of base hits in the fifth, eventually scoring four runs and driving New York’s Jacob deGrom from the game. Three more Royals runs followed in the 8th but Cueto had enough already, throwing a complete-game two-hitter; the first World Series complete game since Josh Beckett’s in the clincher in 2003 and the first by an American League pitcher since Jack Morris’ 10-inning shutout in 1991’s Game 7.
After two games in the Midwest, the series shifted to the Big Apple for the next three. Game 3 got off to an explosive start, with young Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard throwing over the head of Escobar. Though the Royals got a run in in the first, the Mets countered with Wright homering off of Yordano Ventura, and after Kansas City scored two in the second, the Mets took the lead for good when Granderson hit a two-run homer in the third. Another run followed in the 4th, before scoring 4 in the sixth off Franklin Morales, the weak-link in the Royals bullpen (Morales had a similar disaster inning for Colorado in the 2007 World Series). The 9-3 win got the Mets on the board, and importantly back into the series.
Of note in this game was the fifth-inning pinch-hit appearance of the Royals’ Raul A. Mondesi, who became the first player ever to make his MLB debut in a World Series. His father Raul played over 1,500 games in the majors, but never in a World Series.
The drama ratcheted up again in Game 4. Mets rookie Michael Conforto started the scoring with a third-inning home run, with Flores adding another when Royals right fielder Alex Rios lost track of how many outs there were. Conforto homered again in the sixth, becoming the third-youngest player to have a two-homer game in World Series history. However, the lead wouldn’t last; reliever Tyler Clippard walked Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain, forcing manager Terry Collins to bring in his closer Familia. Hosmer greeted him with a slow roller that Mets second baseman David Murphy – who’s hitting led his club to this stage – let get under his glove for a critical error that allowed Zobrist to score. The Royals would score two more on base hits by Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez, and after two shutout innings by closer Wade Davis, had a 5-3 win and stood a win away from the title.
Shellshocked by events, the Mets had to win Game 5 to send the series back to Kansas City and the early signs couldn’t have been better. Granderson led off the first with his third homer of the Series, and Harvey was dominant through 8 innings as he held the Royals scoreless. Yet unbelievably the Royals would rally again. Harvey convinced Collins to keep him in the game, but after surrendering a leadoff walk to Cain Collins went to Familia and Hosmer again won the matchup, hitting a double over Conforto’s head to score Cain. Moustakas moved Hosmer over to third, and with one out Perez grounded to Wright at third. As he threw to first Hosmer broke for home, drawing a throw from Mets first baseman Duda that went wide of catcher Travis D’Arnaud and allowed Hosmer to score and tie the game. When the Mets couldn’t score in the ninth off Kelvin Herrera, the game went to extras.
After two scoreless frames, the decisive moment arrived in the top of the 12th. Perez singled off Addison Reed, and was pinch-run for by speedster Jarrod Dyson who promptly stole second. Royals pinch-hitter Christian Colon – who’s last at-bat came back on October 4 – singled to left, scoring Dyson. Paulo Orlando followed with a hit that scored Colon, and after the Royals loaded the bases Cain cleared them with a double to left. Davis then came on to close it out, ending it with a called third strike on Flores, and the Royals were crowned champions.
Catcher Salvador Perez was named Series MVP, hitting 8 for 22 (.364) with a pair of extra-base hits, though unlike last year the presentation wasn’t car-crash television. Cueto, Hosmer, Herrera, and Zobrist were also worthy candidates.
The Mets starters lived up to their billing, with only deGrom failing to deliver. However only Granderson showed up amongst their hitters, and their defensive and bullpen weaknesses were exposed under pressure.
But ultimately, the Royals proved to have more lives than a cat, and like a vampire seemingly never dead, evidenced by these:
- Eight times this postseason they won in games they trailed in
- In seven of those, they trailed by multiple runs
- Three of their wins in the World Series came when they trailed in the 8th inning or later
- Of the 27 runs they scored in the five games, 15 of those came in the 8th inning or later. Conversely the Mets only scored 1 run after the 6th all series
- The last time a team clinched a World Series after being down by at least two runs in the 9th inning in the title-deciding game? 1939 when the New York Yankees did it.
They became the first team to win the World Series after losing it the year before since the 1989 Oakland Athletics, and the first after losing in Game 7 the previous year since the 1962 Yankees. Not bad for a team most pundits predicted to regress significantly and win between 74 and 78 games. Game 5’s win was their 106th of the year.
The Royals have their crown.
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