Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015 mfc World Series Cards • Mets @Royals, Game One. Better get a snack.



So this incredibly amazing 2015 season ended with the Mets in the World Series. In a very real sense this was a bit of a shock. I expected New York to be in the running in 2016, with Harvey and Wheeler back, but I figured 2015 would be the last rung on the ladder up. I was aware of the fact that the Mets were only missing a few ingredients to be a really good team and I did feel if things could break their way, maybe.....just maybe.

That was with the team we sent out in April. But after the week of "The Crying Game" and the trade deadline the Mets became a totally different animal.This was one of the most fantastic pennant runs I have ever seen. In some ways very reminiscent of the team's run in 1973, with the injuries, the September run and the entire National League East not playing up to par.


But New York didn't back in this time.They steamrolled. In 2015 the Mets were the first team in major league history to rank last in runs-per-game in their league up until July 31st and then lead the league in runs-per-game from August on out. It's amazing how a few good moves made way for such a fantastic transition. 


New York wasn't supposed to be anywhere near the World Series in 2015. The Washington Nationals were heavily favored to make it to the big show, and at season's start there was no reason to believe that wasn't exactly what would happen.
Yet, here we were. On the big stage.


New York now had the most World Series appearances by an expansion franchise with five. I was pumped. We all were pumped. We were ready to go and felt we had the team, the pitching, and yes, suddenly even the hitting. The Mets decimated the Cubs in the NLCS. There was much hope that they would continue their outrageous offensive display, specifically Daniel Murphy's super hot bat.


Could Murphy sustain his historically powerful performance? I didn't think so, but I still figured he would have a great series at the plate. Maybe not a home run a night, but he'd get his hits. And there was the wonder involved with seeing if Murphy could homer in game one and extend that record. 

There was much debate about the week off between the NLCS and the World Series. Would it hurt? Would it help?
I personally thought it would help. I thought rest was a good thing. 


A lot of the talk during the off week regarded how much all Mets fans wanted to see Yoenis Cespedes get hot and go on a tear. 


I was rooting for Lucas Duda to stay alive and go on one of those homer streaks that he is known for. He just found a groove in the last game of the NLCS and in that respect the week off might have hurt Lucas, a very streaky hitter when it comes to four baggers.
I think we all envisioned good things. Before the series, you dream of what could be. And then they play the games.

____________________________________________________


Game one would be at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. I could go on about what a good little team the Royals were but I think we learned that first hand. As a fan I preferred we played the Royals over the Toronto Blue Jays. I was afraid of the Jays and their power players like stylish bat tosser Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Edwin Encarnacion. Add Russell Martin's 23 kaBOOMs and those four Blue Jays had more home runs than the entire Kansas City squad.


I thought the Royals were good but I didn't think they were good enough to get past our starting pitching. All eight in the starting line-up had 10 HRs or more, topping out with Kendrys Morales and Mike Moustakas who were tied for the team lead with 22. Only one Royal, Morales, drove in over 100 runs. They were little Scrappy Doos who made constant contact and knew how to execute. Their bullpen had a reputation for greatness.


And we had the pitching. We had Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, and Matz. I hope for the next bunch of years the names in that rotation become as feared and well known as Seaver,Koosman, and Gentry or Matlack. Gooden, Darling, and Ojeda or Cone. I'd have to say, in general as a Mets fan, I felt pretty confident going in.

The date of this game was October 27th, 2015.


The last time both the Mets and the Royals won a World Championship was on this very date, Kansas City in 1985 and New York in 1986. How wacky is that? Exactly 30 years to the date, on the same field even, Bret Saberhagen and the Royals routed St. Louis in Game 7 for their most recent crown. And in 1986 Darryl Strawberry homered at Shea to help the Mets beat Boston in Game 7 for their latest title. Wacky stuff.


Also neither team, having played in eight World Series total
(Mets 5, Royals 3), had ever won a game one before. So something would have to give in that department.

From Andrew Beaton on the Mets and the Royals in the series:
These are two largely homegrown teams with fan bases who have waited a long time for a World Series title.  

Yes, the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes and the Royals acquired Johnny Cueto. But the core of both teams came up through the minor leagues. On the Mets, that includes their entire rotation—Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz—ace closer Jeurys Familia, and a core of position players such as David Wright, Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores. And the Royals have some of the best homegrown players in the game with Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, Yordano Ventura and Kelvin Herrera. 

A World Series title has eluded these franchises for quite some time. The Mets haven’t won since 1986, the Royals since 1985. The Mets haven’t been to the Series since 2000, while the Royals are making their second consecutive appearance after losing in seven games to the Giants last year. 


DejaVu? 


The game had an 8:00 starting time. I suppose many fans feel the introductions and pre-game festivities are a bore but not me. I love that shit, and to see the Mets part of it again was very, very nice.


Andy Grammer sang the National Anthem. I had never heard of him or any of his hit songs they listed so yes, I am now officially old. He did a good job, and that's good enough for me. Career Royal and hall of fame third baseman George Brett threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
And finally, the 2015 World Series got underway and it was time to

It was Edinson Volquez who would get the game one start for the Royals. Volquez had won 13, lost 9 during the season. His 3.55 ERA was respectably average. I was more concerned about his performance in the playoffs so far. His last time out against the Blue Jays he allowed five runs on seven hits over five innings and lost. The playoff game before that, however, he won, going six innings and only allowing 2 hits. So the guy was no slouch. But I wasn't worried. We had Matt Harvey.


Now to say that and feel this way at this point in Harvey's career is kinda cocky. Kinda Harveyish. I mean, he's only been pitching at this level for a few seasons worth of baseball. 

He was majestic on arrival and like a messiah in our minds in 2013. And sure, he rocked the entire Mets nation when he first came on the scene. He showed much more than just promise. He showed he was ace material and he commanded attention as much as he exhibited great command.


His Tommy John surgery in 2014 put a damper on the whole scene, but Matt worked hard and came back strong. The Dark Knight was back on track.



After all the hoopla the game finally got underway around 8:20. Edison Volquez took the mound and delivered the first pitch to Curtis Granderson. 


New York went 1-2-3 in their half as Volquez brought his heat. Granderson flied out to left, David Wright fouled out and postseason powerhouse Daniel Murphy struck out. New York had scored in the first inning of every NLCS game and that postseason streak ended here.
Then the Royals came to the plate. I hadn't even sat down yet. I was making a bunch of popcorn because I had family over.


I thought of many ways this series could start for the Mets. Like I said, you dream the good dream. But what happened next was unthinkable. Unfathomable. On Matt Harveys very first pitch of the game, lead off batter Alcides Escobar hit a high deep drive into the left-centerfield gap. It didn't look like it was going out off the bat, but it did look like trouble. There was some good hang time on it. 


Mets centerfielder Yoenis Cespedes and leftfielder Michael Conforto took off after it, and as the ball came down Cespedes took a quick glance at Conforto, who wisely pulled up and deferred to the centerfielder.
Cespedes got under it but somehow could not glove the ball. The awkward way in which he stabbed at it at the end made me think he never picked up the ball after his glance at Conforto. But it was his ball all the way. And he not only didn't catch it, the ball hit the side of his leg and ricocheted past Conforto into the vacated area of left field, darting along the bottom of the outfield wall.

I was watching the game with family and we were all chatty and excited. It was like being on cloud nine for me. I was all pumped, just getting ready to sit down and get comfy with my popcorn and BOOM! All the air seemed to escape from my balloon as I watched Escobar race around the bases. Everyone was shocked and became silent.

My first thought was OH NO! How could that happen?! The
answer to that one was easy. This was the Mets in the postseason where nothings easy and nothing is ever ordinary.

My second thought was that the drive, a deep and high flying ball perfectly placed in the gap, was very catchable. It should have been caught. And if Cespedes did track it down and make the grab he would have made a catch very similar to one of Tommie Agee's 1969 World Series catches. It wasn't under the same circumstances and it was a tad shallower, but it could have been a carbon copy of Tommie's first great grab. An easier catch even. Way easier!

And you don't have to twist my arm to make another card for one of my childhood idols. Lets flashback real quick to game 3 of the 1969 World Series.


But this was like the worst thing that could happen. Even a home run over the wall would have been better. Well, maybe not. The worst thing would have been if the two outfielders collided. We would not want to lose either or both of them for any length of time. And we Mets fans have seen many on field collisions over the years. So at least that much went right. Because it also could have been a carbon copy of the George Theodore/Don Hahn collision of 1973. Or how about the Mookie/Dykstra collision of 1986? That Beltran/Cameron diving collision in 2005 was particularly horrific because they dove into each other head first.











We've had some pretty bad ones over the years. I imagine if you follow a team closely enough that all ballclubs have their own historically scary collisions. This doesn't just happen to the Mets, right? That would be freaky.


My third thought was that as traumatic as that opening was, it was only one run. The Mets were going to score one run. I broke the silence by informing everyone watching with me of this. 

But still, what a shocker. An inside the park home run! There have only been 12 inside the park home runs in World Series history. The Royals Kauffman Stadium has a vast outfield that is no stranger to this alternative type of four bagger. This was the 107th hit at Kauffman in the team's history, which first opened in 1973 with an artificial surface and was refitted with natural grass in 1995.

Babe Ruth gave up one in the first inning of a World Series game between the Boston Red Sox and the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1916, but Brooklyn centerfielder Hi Myers was the third batter in the inning.
Hy Myers follows through on his inside the park home run.
The Mets first manager, The Ol' Perfessor Casey Stengel himself, hit an inside the park'r in the 1923 World Series while playing for the New York Giants.

The last time there was such a rarity to lead off a World Series game was in 1903. Lefty hitting Patsy Dougherty of the Boston Americans hit a deep drive in the right-centerfield gap off of Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Sam Leever


In those days there were no proper outfield walls in many stadiums. The long ball was a rare commodity in the dead ball era. In a number of locales the spectators themselves formed the outfield wall as they gathered around the field's outer dimensions. In the photo above, taken during the 1903 series, look at where the outfielders are positioned. The right fielder looks deep but the other two in center and left are ridiculously shallow by today's standards.

I don't know the specific details about Dougherty's history making shot, it's only listed as a HR to CF-RF at Baseball Reference.com. But looking at that photo you can imagine a gapper that probably ran all the way into the crowd as Dougherty raced around the bases.

The last inside the park home run in the World Series occurred in 1929. George "Mule" Hass' three-run inside the parker helped the Philadelphia A's overcome an 8-0 seventh-inning deficit in a 10-8 victory in 1929 that went down as part of the Chicago Cubs' tragic postseason history.

And when I say that with the Mets in the postseason nothing's ever easy and nothing's ever ordinary I ain't messin' around.

In the 1969 World Series vs. Baltimore, Mets ace Tom Seaver gave up a home run in game one to the very first batter, Don Buford.

There has been only one other first pitch home run in a World Series game, and I know you'll wince when I remind you that Derek Jeter did this to the Mets in game four of the 2000 Fall classic.


So twice in the history of the series that's happened, both to the Mets, one of em an inside the park variety. I'm tellin' ya, nothing is ever ordinary with the Mets in postseason games.

So, back to the action.
But jeez, an inside the park home run on Harvey's first pitch. 


The Royals were up 1-0 before I even sat down. I thought all that crap I researched above would lessen the shock, but it hasn't, has it. It still sucks.
It was an auspicious start for Kansas City but I wasn't going to let that put a damper on my night. These Mets didn't get this far just to lose game one 1-0 on a freak play.


Edinson Volquez looked to be cruising, retiring the first 8 Mets he faced. In the third inning Kelly Johnson, who was New York's designated hitter batting eighth, was the first Mets player to reach when he was hit in the leg with a pitch. Curtis Granderson then worked a 2 out walk and things were looking up. But David Wright could not cash in a run. He struck out looking to end the frame.

Playoff home run hero Daniel Murphy led off the fourth inning with a line single to center, the first hit of the game for New York and his 17th hit of the postseason. Cespedes popped out to second for the first out to bring Lucas Duda to the plate. The big Mets first baseman singled hard through the shifted infield and Murphy was able to get to third without any resistance.


This was reminiscent of the NLDS play where Murph took an undefended third base on the Dodgers. The Royals were not caught unaware. Moustakas knew that he was responsible for third base and raced there, but Murphy beat him by a quite a bit.











With Mets on first and third Travis d'Arnaud hit a chopper down the third baseline. Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas tried to make a nice diving stop but he couldn't get a handle on the ball and it trickled away as Murphy scored easily.

The Mets had tied the game.



I was hoping for more runs and a New York lead but Volquez got the next two outs, Michael Conforto (foul out to third) and Wilmer Flores (6-4 force at 2nd) without incident. Now it was Matt Harvey who was cruising, and Volquez who, I was hoping, was starting to struggle. The turn of the tide. Baseball at it's best.


Baseball at it's worst: Before the start of the bottom of the fourth inning an electronics failure caused both the primary and backup generators inside the FOX Sports production
compound to lose power.



The issue was immediately addressed, although it resulted in viewers missing one at-bat.
With Fox Sports not working, the feed switched to an international broadcast with Matt Vasgersian doing a play-by-play.



The on-field 4 minute delay was due to replay communication capability being lost in both teams' clubhouses. The Mets and Royals agreed to play without the ability of review challenges until this problem was rectified, which it soon was.



It still took three more minutes for the players to return to the game. The delay, which I would have to say was not ordinary, didn't hurt New York's momentum. 


After play resumed, with one out in the fifth, Curtis Granderson ripped a wicked liner into the right field corner that somehow stayed up long enough to go over the wall for a HUGE solo homer.
The Mets were up by a score of 2-1!


The Grandyman became the first Mets player to hit a World Series home run since Mike Piazza on Oct. 25, 2000. That's a long freakin' time.

Many considered Curtis to be the team's MVP during the regular season as was reflected in the mfc Mets Team MVP voting.


In game one he only had the one hit ( plus two walks) but it was a major one.


Once New York got the lead I felt this was our game. Harvey was dominating in the middle innings. This was Mets baseball like it ought to be.


After two bumpy innings at the start it looked like Matt Harvey was settling down and finding a groove. The Dark Knight was now in control. After walking Alex Gordon in the 2nd Matt retired a string of 11 Royals in a row. And as he was busy doing that New York was busy padding their lead.



Yoenis Cespedes led off the 6th inning with a grasscutter that just got by Royals shortstop Escobar and into center field for a single. Kansas City set up the usual shift against Lucas Duda.



The Dude did exactly what he did in the 4th, singling precisely through the shifted infield, this time off of Moustakas's glove, sending Cespedes from first to third without a throw. I noticed this time the Royals pitcher ran to cover third because Moustakas was involved in the play, but this was twice in the game that the Mets got a man to third by taking advantage of the shift. Things were going our way.

Royal starter Edinson Volquez reached back and got d'Arnaud this time. Travis ran the count to 3-2 but was left looking at a perfect fastball that swept the outside edge of the plate. It was a huge strikeout for Volquez. Now with one out and runners on first and third, it was up to Mets superook Michael Conforto to do what he could.


I recall thinking, a hit would be nice, but at least hit a grounder to the right side or lift a fly to the outfield. At the very least, do that much.






Conforto did just that, lifting an easy fly to leftfield off of Volquez first offering. Royals leftfielder Alex Gordon didn't even have to move to make the catch. Cespedes took off from third like a racehorse out of the gate.


Against anyone else the throw might have been in time, because it was a good throw, but against the speed of Yoenis it was a futile effort. Mets superook Conforto quietly became the first baseball player EVER to knock in a run in the Little League World Series, College World Series, and Major League World Series.
And New York had a 3-1 lead!


Ugh. Another Royals card. I knew doing up this series wouldn't be easy. Or ordinary. I didn't envision so many non-Met cards. What can I say? I love the glove. Mikey Mouse made a very nice play to end the Mets 6th and provided retribution for his earlier effort. Baseball is like that. You always have a chance to re-tilt the scales, at least in a fans eyes. The Royal's third baseman saved a run easy. If that grounder got past him Duda would have scored the 4th run of the game for New York. This was a huge play by Moustakas to end the sixth.

That would be it for Edinson Volquez. He went six full and held his own, giving up 3 runs on 6 hits. At this point we weren't aware of the bad news in store for Edinson. More on that in a little bit.


With a 3-1 lead in the 6th it look liked we might have this game in the bag. We had to get the ball to Familia. The way Harvey was pitching I didn't think it would be too much of a problem. Matt threw first pitch strikes to 17 of the 23 hitters he had faced up to this point. He didn't have his best stuff but he was pitching like a determined bulldog. We'd get six out of him easy and I was praying for seven or eight. 


But Harvey's shut-down streak ended suddenly as Royals second baseman Ben Zobrist ripped Matt's very first pitch of the frame down the first baseline, past Lucas Duda and into the right field corner for a lead off double. It was only Kansas City's third hit of the game. But it was a rope of a drive that Zobrist was all over and I wondered if Harvey had hit a wall.

The follow up single by Lorenzo Cain didn't make me feel any better. Zobrist went to third and the Royals had duplicated what the Mets did in their half. Runners on the corners, no outs.

Kansas City didn't waste even one out. Royal first baseman Eric Hosmer, on an 0-2 count, lifted a fly ball to straight center, deep enough for Zobrist to score without a throw, and the Mets lead was cut to one run.

That was Hosmer's 12th RBI of this postseason and he became only the second player to drive in a dozen in two consecutive postseasons. Of course, that's when you lump all the postseason stats together like they do these days. I don't like that. You have your playoffs and you have your World Series. The playoffs are just stepping stones to the big stage. World Series stats should stand alone and above the rest.

Then the Royals set out to do what they do so well. Manufacture a run.
Matt Harvey knew that Kansas City wanted to get Lorenzo Cain into scoring position, and he held him tight, throwing over a number of times. On a 2-1 count to Kendrys Morales, Cain took off for second. Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud made a bad throw that sailed away from the bag and Cain was safe and in scoring position.


This was a crucial steal of second base. Both teams were turning to the stolen base to compliment their offense and it was paying off for Kansas City here in game one as it did for New York vs. Chicago in the NLCS. 


Harvey was still concerned about Cain at second, and threw over, almost getting him. Matt needn't have worried, Cain wasn't there long. 

Mike Moustakas locked on a Dark Knight 2-0 fastball and ripped a hard single to right center. It wasn't a horrible pitch, tailing away from Moustakas, who somehow was able to get his bat head out in front of it. It was a good piece of hitting. Cain came around easily scoring the Royals 3rd run and we had a tie ballgame. 


Bartolo Colon had started warming up and I was worried we would have to go to the pen early, but Matt Harvey was able to find his way out of the inning and it was 3-3 through six. And that would be as far as he would go. We wouldn't be getting 7 or 8 innings out of Harvey. Not this time. He threw 80 pitches, 53 of them for strikes.

Matt stayed away from his fastball this outing. I don't know if he didn't think he had a good one or he was worried because the Royals were a great fastball hitting team. In any case, he kept New York in the game and I considered this a good job by The Dark Knight. Not "I date supermodels" good but good enough. He couldn't hold that 3-1 lead but we were still in this.


 Lefty reliever Danny Duffy started the 7th inning for the Royals. He was in there to face the lefties Kelly Johnson(DH) and Curtis Granderson. Mets manager Terry Collins pinch hit Michael Cuddyer for Johnson, and Cuddy struck out looking in a pretty tough at bat to watch. He looked kinda clueless. Granderson popped out to right and Duffy's job was done.

Royals manager Ned Yost brought in right handed fireballer Kelvin Herrera to face the heart of the order. It looked like the Mets were going to put something together as both David Wright and Daniel Murphy tapped back to back singles. New York had 2 on and 2 out, the mighty Yoenis Cespedes at the plate.

Since coming to the Mets at the start of August Cespedes became a major contributor to the pennant run. He smacked 17 home runs and drove in 44 down the stretch. His bat alone was responsible for 9 New York wins. It really would have been storybook shit if Cespedes could have come through here. But he didn't, reaching out and popping up sharply to Gordon in left. A wasted opportunity. Against these Scrappy Doo Royals you cannot waste opportunities.


Righty Addison Reed, a late acquisition for extra relief, took over for Matt Harvey and the Mets in the seventh. Reed had an excellent inning, setting down the Royals 1-2-3. He needed 12 pitches to get through Gordon, Rios, and Escobar.
Great job by Reed! *SALUTE*
____________________________________________
Edinson Volquez heads to the clubhouse after the sixth inning.
At the start of the 8th inning fans watching the FOX broadcast were informed of some tragic news involving the Royals starting pitcher Edinson Volquez.
When Volquez was removed after 6 innings he was greeted in the clubhouse by his wife, kids, brother and Royals General Manager Dayton Moore. They took him into the manager's office and closed the door.

His father, the man who prodded him to take up baseball, had passed away. Daniel Volquez, 63, died in the Dominican Republic earlier in the day from complications of a heart condition. Volquez wife requested that Edinson not be informed about his loss until after the game.

The pitcher and his family would fly to the Dominican Republic for the funeral. Volquez told Royals Manager Ned Yost that he would rejoin the team in New York. Sad, tragic news which added more drama to an already dramatic game.
My condolences go out to Mr. Volquez and his family.

___________________________________________

Getting back to the action, the game was tied 3-3 going into the 8th inning. Herrera was still on the mound pitching very effectively for Kansas City and he dispatched both Lucas Duda and Travis d'Arnaud with some nasty stuff. That brought up Juan Lagares who entered the game as a defensive replacement in centerfield  to start the 7th (Cespedes moved to left, replacing Conforto).

Lagares had a hell of an at-bat. Herrera got two strikes on him and kept pounding the strike zone. The count didn't get past 2-2 but Laggy fouled off five pitches and then lined a single to center. This might have been the best at-bat by a Mets player in this game.

Throughout the playoffs New York turned on the running game and it worked much to their advantage. Collins went for it here, sending Lagares. The count was 1-0 on Wilmer Flores when Laggy got leggy and took off for second, diving in head first and getting in just before the tag.  Like with the Royals and Lorenzo Cain earlier in the game, this was huge.



Now with a runner in scoring position Flores had a pretty good at-bat himself. Herrera hit 100mph on the gun pitching to the Mets shortstop, running the count to 2-2. The Royal reliever was overpowering Wilmer, who was swinging late at the fastball, and on the 5th pitch of the at-bat Flores was lucky enough to get a piece of one, and hit a high chopper to first base.

Hosmer made an excellent play in the 3rd inning, robbing Michael Conforto of a single, but here in the eighth he came up on the chopper and could not snag it on the short hop. It got through him and into right field as Juan Lagares raced around third and headed home. New York took a one run lead in the eighth!



Come on! Who didn't think of the Buckner play as soon as the ball got past Hosmer? Even the Fox talking heads saw the similarity (they must always have that play Q'd up when the Mets are playing).

And as a matter of fact, the only other time in World Series history that a team took the lead on an error in the 8th inning or later was when the ball went through Buckner's legs in game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Now that wasn't ordinary then and it's still not today!


Not to mention that Hosmer is a slick fielding first baseman who has won 2 Gold Glove Awards. Add to it that this was only the second error a Royal fielder had made in the entire postseason. They had gone 136 innings without allowing an unearned run! It looked like things were looking up. New York had a one run lead with 2 innings to play.
Tyler Clippard would pitch the 8th.


Clippard came on strong when he joined the team. Sandy Alderson got him from the A's at the end of July, sending big right handed pitcher Casey Meisner in return. It was the GMs first move as the trade deadline approached.

Clippard started well and made some crucial contributions as a bridge to Familia. He had a 0.95 ERA for his first 20 appearances on the mound for the Mets. Unfortunately he only had so much in the tank, becoming less effective as the season wrapped. Tyler surrendered 5 home runs in 17 innings through September to the tune of a 6.75 ERA. We needed him to be at his original best and be that bridge.

I was curious to see what his stuff looked like tonight but Ben Zobrist wasn't interested and again hit a first pitch screaming me-me down the right field line. It whipped around the corner so fast Curtis Granderson peeled out trying to track it. Zobrist didn't try to take advantage and settled for a lead off double. Oh come on Clippy! Not a good start.

And then Lorenzo Cain tried to bunt. Twice! With Ben Zobrist on second, Cain, a pretty good hitter who batted .307 during the season, tried to give himself up to move the runner to third. Up to this point Cain was 6 for 11 with runners in scoring position in the postseason! I thought this was a pretty stupid move and was glad, especially when Cain missed one, fouled off another, and then took a flailing swing at strike three. Big out Clipboy!

Next up for the Royals, Eric Hosmer with a chance to redeem himself, to re-tilt those scales. Familia was up in the pen now, but Clip looked to be bearing down intensely. He sat Hosmer down on three surgically delivered strikes. Two outs! He could get out of it. Come on Clipart!

Tyler got two quick strikes on Kendrys Morales and that was it. He was outta gas. He threw four balls in a row including a wild pitch (that IMO looked to be more d'Arnaud's fault) that allowed Zobrist to get to third.

Terry, and I think all of us, had seen enough. He was going to Familia for the four out save, the biggest save in Juerys young closing career. Fammy got Moustakas on two pitches, inducing a ground out to Wilmer Flores at short.  
Holy crow, we got out of it! We only needed three more outs to win game one!


The Mets 9th went quick and aggressively.Granderson popped out to left to start the frame and David Wright followed with his second hit of the game, a nice line shot right through the hole between third and short.

As I said earlier the Mets were running throughout the postseason. I didn't fault Terry for trying it here. We really could use the extra run.
With Daniel Murphy at the dish Wright took off for second on the very first pitch. He looked to be safe too. He slid in hard, Escobar tagged him high on the back, and second base ump Mike Winters called The Captain safe. Yay!



But replay showed David to be out by a (insert a type of hair here) hair. Ned Yost used his challenge and it was reversed, Wright was called out, and all I could think was that I wished they didn't fix the damn replay problem from the earlier power outage at the game. Meh, like I said, I was all for the aggressive approach. We could manufacture runs too. We were throughout the playoffs. Here, in game one of the World Series, it backfired. Sometimes you gamble. Sometimes you lose. Such is baseball.


With two out Daniel Murphy was now up with nobody on. I thought this would be the perfect time to hit that home run, but Dan flew out meekly to center to end the half. 

And so we came to the bottom of the ninth, Mets up by a score of 4-3, and Familia The Flawless on the mound facing the bottom of the Royals lineup. Three outs to go for a game one World Series win!


Oh boy, this is a tough one to write about. I've been suffering from something I call The Benítez Syndrome ever since, oh, the turn of the century. I get upset when I hear the names Benítez and Familia in the same sentence (unless it's about Familia breaking Benítez's single season saves record, which Jeurys tied with 43 regular season saves, 3rd best in the majors for 2015).

Basically, it involves having a closer who is outstanding on a regular basis but in that one crucial game you absolutely need to win, he fails. It can happen in all sorts of ways. The dreaded walk-off, the meltdown, etc. I'd like to say I've seen them all but you can't say that in baseball. Watch baseball long enough and you will witness a new way for a player to fail, or for a team to lose.


This condition didn't start with Armando Benítez. It started with the advent of the one inning closer. It just became so pronounced when Benítez was the Mets closer I decided I had to give the ailment a name. Over the years it has flared up like a sunspot to burn away my happiness.


 But watching Familia throughout 2015 as he blossomed into a grade A stopper was a joy to behold.
Sure, he blew a few, and one nasty wet one in particularly (under extenuating circumstances) but he never seemed affected by these bad bumps, always bounced back, and the must win game/save did not elude him. The newly bred closer hadn't blown a save since July 30 and had been nearly perfect throughout the postseason.

I was advocating for Familia as closer even when Jenrry Mejia was hot and racking up saves in 2014. There was something about Mejia. Watching him close a game was like watching a high wire act. He couldn't quite harness all his pitches. To me his brash flashiness belied a lack of confidence that became even more apparent with the discovery of his banned substance usage. I felt that Mejia's colossal stupidity in committing the same infraction again was a blessing in disguise.

I thought Familia had better stuff and better control as well as a more level headed attitude. Still, I found what Juerys was able to accomplish in 2015 to be pretty outstanding. I wish Mejia well, and I hope he gets his career back on track, but the Mets have found their closer for the near future, thank you very much. At least I hope so. I'd love to see Familia break Benítez's saves record in 2016.

Familia had been untouchable this postseason, allowing only two hits and two walks in 9 2/3 scoreless innings. He's was dominating.

I was excited. Familia was to face the very bottom of the Royals batting order. Three more outs!
The ninth started great. Jeurys looked to have good stuff, his sinker having the 'ol dippity do. He got Salvador Perez to ground out routinely to short. Two outs to go!

Royals leftfielder Alex Gordon was up.

Lemme tell you what I know about Alex Gordon.
 The Royals left fielder gained distinction through his baseball card shortly after being drafted in 2006. Topps issued Gordon's rookie card prematurely, as only players on 25-man rosters or who have played in at least one Major League game are eligible. As a result, Topps stopped producing the card and cut holes in some of the existing cards. Examples that found their way into retail stores have garnered bids in the thousands of dollars on eBay. There are said to be fewer than 100 in existence.

From  2006:
According to Darren Rovell of ESPN, the Alex Gordon Topps card is so valuable because of a new MLB policy: "Last year, in part to reduce confusion in the marketplace, the Major League Baseball Players Association ruled that card manufacturers could make rookie cards only of players who either made the 25-man roster or played in a major league game the season before. Gordon didn't qualify either way. After he led Nebraska into the College World Series, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 draft didn't sign his contract -- including a $4 million signing bonus -- until late September."

This card sold for upward of $2,500 on Ebay back in 2006. I'm gonna say that's no ordinary card.

I also knew he had hit 13 long balls in 2015. Not such a big threat. The guy was batting eighth in the order. I wasn't even thinking home run.
So I was totally floored by what happened next.


So yea, with one out in the ninth Gordon hit a home run off Familia to tie the game. Not a cheap shot either, well out to straight center.

So that happened...
 and I thought I heard a balloon burst, or maybe it was my heart, or an aneurysm, all surefire symptoms of The Benitez Syndrome. 


I felt my gut sink lower than my stomach and then sink even further. This was devastating. Familia The Flawless had become Familia The Failure. The Royals had tied the game! The bottom of the order. Alex freakin' Gordon!

My brother and everyone else was as shocked and speechless as I. He groaned. I just looked down and shook my head. I found myself thinking the same thing I thought after the first pitch of the game. How could this happen! Well, ya know, not easy and never ordinary and all of that, but COME ON! This was ridiculous.


With the count 1-1 Familia had tried to quick pitch Gordon. Why the quick pitch is even a part of Jeurys arsenal is beyond me. It's not like he doesn't have good stuff. And he put nothing on this one. Just a flat get me over fastball that was right over the meaty part of the plate at 97mph. Gordon, like all the Royals a good fastball hitter, was ready and he was all over it.


Familia got the next two batters easy, but he had failed to close it. The big soft spoken reliever had been doing great for so long that I couldn't be mad at him. Disappointed, very much so, but not angry. If Baseball does anything it consistently reminds us that no one is perfect. But what an awful time to give up the go-fer. And off of a stupid fat quick pitch. Grrrr. And that would be it for Familia. No two innings tonight.

Over the next bunch of seasons Familia can either make my Benítez Syndrome go away or make it worse. That's for time to tell. He had already saved some pressure packed games this postseason. We wouldn't be here without his 43 contributions. I hope a few years from now we aren't comparing him to Benítez. I'd rather he be compared to Mariano Rivera who gave up a HUGE home run very early in his postseason career and went on to become the best closer in the history of the game.

BTW, writing over 500 words about my team's current closer is also a symptom of The Benítez Syndrome.

So once again game one was tied and this one was going into extra innings. Eyeeeeeeecurumba! Wade Davis came out of the pen for Kansas City in the 10th and what happened here did kinda make me angry.

Davis struck out the side, going through Cespedes, Duda, and d'Arnaud. At least they all went down swinging. In what was to be a battle of the bullpens the Royals pitching attack was sharp and effective as we passed out of regulation and into extra frames.

As was the Mets pen. Terry Collins went to left handed starter Jonathon Niese, who was assigned to the pen for the postseason. I figured on "The Hawk" for more than one inning, and that's why I thought our pen had the edge in extra frames. We had two starting pitchers out there, Niese and Colon, who both could go multiple innings. Niese got through the heart of the Royals lineup without much effort, getting Zobrist to foul out and striking out both Cain and Hosmer.


New York had a good chance to break the deadlock in the 11th. Ex-Philadelphia Phillie right handed reliever Ryan Madson was now on the mound for the Royals. Juan Lagares greeted him with a beautiful bunt single that caught the Royals infield napping. I was hoping for another stolen base by Laggy, but Collins had Flores lay down a sacrifice bunt.

Well, the double play would have been devastating. Equally devastating so far, though, was Michael Cuddyer, who entered the game in the 7th for Kelly Johnson as the DH.

We found out after the series that Cuddy was suffering from a nagging core injury for a large part of the season. Well that's a shame but it didn't help with my opinion of him here. I cursed as he swung wildly over a curve for the first out of the inning.


Cuddyer, who the folks at The Pool refer to as Michael Cadaver, didn't get into the game until the 13th inning and still managed to strike out three times! Pretty pathetic.




Why was he in there? I wanted to see Juan Uribe get some swings. Uribe always seemed to be clutch. Maybe Collins thought Cuddyer would come around, but that was a gamble I wasn't too keen on.

It's a shame. I like Cuddyer. But he obviously wasn't 100%. He had 2 hits in his last 28 at-bats going into this game, 1 for 10 in the post. He was not a good bet.

So Granderson got to bat, the main reason Collins wanted to stay out of the DP and get a runner in scoring position, and Ryan Madson didn't want to give him anything to hit. He walked Curtis on five pitches, including one that just buzzed his head, bringing up David Wright.

Wright had two singles his last two times up and we really needed one now. He had hit 3 home runs off of Madson during the pitchers days in Philly, so I liked the matchup.

 Madson went 2-0 on David and dropped in a borderline strike. Then Wright fouled off a string of pitches before finally succumbing. Madson got him swinging at a nice fastball on the outside corner and the Mets threat was extinguished.  Gah!

Leading off the 11th for Kansas City was Jarrod Dyson, who pinch ran for Kendrys Morales in the 8th inning. Dyson put a wicked swing on Niese's first toss of the frame and drilled a gapper to right-center. Curtis Granderson went after it at full throttle and made an astounding catch, leaping high to rob Dyson of extra bases.


Niese got through the rest of the inning unscathed, but not before Salvador Perez lined a single off the third base bag, a very unordinary base hit. Niese didn't let it rattle him, as things sometimes  do, and struck out 9th inning party pooper Alex Gordon.


For the Mets half of the 11th the Royals turned to ex-Metropolitan righthander Chris Young, the tallest pitcher ever to come out of Texas, to keep the Mets in check. Young was also a starting pitcher now working in relief. And all he did was fan four Mets in his three shutout innings of relief work to tie a mark held by Walter Johnson and our very own Tug McGraw.

Both struck out 4 opponents in extra innings during a World Series game, Johnson in 1924 and Tugger in 1973. McGraw went 6 innings in relief in that 12 inning game two victory in 1973 (the extraordinary Mike Andrews "got fired game"-read about it here), an amazin' performance.

Facing Daniel Murphy leading off the 12th Young threw 2 pitches that hit 90mph. Chris must have been pumped because the last time he hit 90 with his fastball was in 2009, 6 years previous.
I was thinking that Murph could still get that HR and keep his streak alive.
Unfortunately Young K'd Murph on a low offspeed pitch that went right through Royal catcher Perez all the way to the backstop. Free base, right? Nope. The ball hit the brick backstop and ricocheted right back to Perez, who fired to first and got Murphy by a few steps. Extraordinarily baaaad. 


Bartolo Colon came on to pitch in the 12th inning. This would be the big guys first World Series appearance in his 18 year career. He had appeared in an NLDS 14 years earlier. That's the biggest gap in time between postseason appearances by a pitcher in major league history.  


Colon's contributions to the start of the Mets season cannot be overstated. Up until June 12th he won 9 games! I remember thinking, wow, this guy could win 20 games if he stays on track. 

Unfortunately he went through a bout of sucky-ness the tail end of June and throughout July, his only good outing being 7 solid shutout innings of 3 hit ball vs. the Cubs on July 1st (in which he received a no decision). 

He lost 4 games in July but bounced back, going 3-1 in August. His September was sub par at 2-2 and to close the season he was used in a few relief appearances with mixed results.

He did well in his other four postseason appearances of 2015. With Colon you usually knew during his first inning if he was going to have a good outing or not. He looked his usual unflappable self, throwing his assortment of fastballs and keeping the Royals off balance. If Colon was on he could pitch all night.

Bartolo got off to a shaky start when lead off batter Paulo Orlando hit a chopper to third and beat out David Wright's throw. Escobar sacrificed Orlando to second and the winning run was in scoring position. I thought oh no, this might be it....

So things got kinda  nerve wracking here. Colon got Lorenzo Cain to ground out to Duda at first, and the runners moved up to second and third. That brought up Eric Hosmer, who RBI wise was having a hell of an October. Collins decided to walk him to get to Jarrod Dyson, who was robbed of extra bases in the 11th by Curtis Granderson. I breathed a big sigh in relief as Colon got Dyson to pop up to Lagares in left-center, and the game continued.

Chris Young was still shutting down the New York offense in the 13th. Wilmer Flores just missed a home run that went foul, and did draw a walk, but the that was it. Collins did finally get Cuddyer out of there, pinch hitting Kirk Nieuwenhuis for him, but Kirk hit a weak pop foul that 3rd baseman Mike Moustakas corralled for out number three. 

The same Moustakas led off the 13th by reaching out and stroking a solid single to center off of Colon.
Oh come on Bart, how about a stress free inning? Colon wasn't feeling any pressure. He calmly got Salvador Perez to pop out to Flores at short. Alex Gordon was able to move Moustakas into scoring position, but his trickling ground out to Duda was out number two. Before I could wipe the sweat from my brow Bartolo Colon got Paulo Orlando to ground to shortstop Wilmer Flores who fielded it flawlessly.
Inning over.


On to the 14th. Again, Chris Young. Again another 1-2-3 inning as he went through Granderson, Wright and Murphy on 8 pitches! Eight pitches! I didn't know whether I wanted to tip my cap to him or start throwing shit at the television. 

Colon was still on the mound for New York in the 14th, but he wasn't cruising by any means. Was Terry squeezing him for a little too much? No, I was all for Colon for three. I trusted the big guy in this spot. But he couldn't afford to keep letting the leadoff batter reach. One bump and I'd pull him. 

We had Gilmartin and Robles still available. I thought Robles would be a good change in contrast to Colon this late in the game. But the ball was still in Bartolo's hand. So I was very happy when Alcides Escobar (grrr, him again) slapped a sharp ground ball right to David Wright at third. 

You know they say certain things kill in baseball. Walks kill, errors kill. And they don't just say these things for no reason. A winning team cannot give away at bats. Especially in extra innings on the road.

Again I got that sinking feeling. Ugh, this is how it's going to happen. An error to open the gate.


Sad, I know. Well, at least it's a World Series cards with a Metropolitan on it.


It was a sharp grounder and Wright couldn't glove it cleanly, knocking the ball to the ground and then quickly retrieving it and throwing off balance to Duda at first. Lucas did all he could to hold the bag but his stretch took him away, and his foot lost contact.


I knew our weakness was mostly a defensive issue, but more up the middle with Flores and Murph, so Wright being the one to make the miscue was surprising.

With these Royals, the way they were playing throughout the postseason, or the regular season for that matter, you had to respect that they took advantage of every opportunity. Now, no team REALLY does that if you watch them closely, but these Royals capitalized more than most.

Watching the Mets season I can say that right after the trading deadline, with the The Crying Game and the acquisition of Cespedes, New York became that kind of team. They just would not be denied. It was so much fun to watch.

This is why I pictured this to be a good series, good for six or seven games. These two teams were on a roll coming into the big show. Which team would continue to roll, and which hit a wall? Right up until the ninth I thought it was our game all the way, but after that shocker everything changed and not in any way in the Mets favor. So I felt, okay, we got a 50/50 chance to get out of this, and the feeling was optimistically generous considering we were playing in extra innings on the road.
Lets go Mets!

When Royal deuce bagger Ben Zobrist followed with a single, a grounder topped through the right side that sent Escobar to third, I felt my optimism seeping out of my pores like steam through a sewer grate and I tried to pull out big tufts of hair from my head.

I didn't have the strength.

You had to figure that the Mets would intentionally walk Lorenzo Cain to load 'em, and they did, and the Royals had three chances to plate Escobar from third. At this point it was not if they were going to do it, but how were they going to do it. It was Eric Hosmer coming to bat. Yea, the guy with all the RBI's up with no outs and a runner on third. Great. There were a very limited number of ways New York could get out of this, and a whole bunch ways that they couldn't. Hosmer lifted a fly to right field.









I felt bad for Bartolo Colon. He deserved a better fate in his first ever World Series appearance.
At 42 years and 157 days, became the oldest pitcher to lose a World Series game. The previous oldest was Grover Alexander (41.222) in 1928.

Daniel Murphy didn't get that home run but he did swat two hits and score a run.

This was the longest World Series opening game ever. Game one lasted a record setting 5 hours and 9 minutes. The contest tied for the longest ever in innings at 14.
The New York Mets continued their streak of never winning a game one in the World Series. They were now 0-5. They have gone to extra innings at least once every year they’ve reached the Series.

Remember earlier I told of another World Series inside the park home run, the one off of Babe Ruth in game two of the 1916 series? That game also went 14 innings, and this was the third 14 inning game in World Series history. So in two of those three 14 inning games an inside the park home run was hit. Amazingly extraordinary.

No doubt about it. Even though we lost, this was an epic World Series game. That was the up side.

The downside: Coming into the 2015 World Series, teams were 104-60 all-time in best-of-seven series after winning Game 1, including 68-38 in the World Series. The last team to win the World Series after losing Game 1: the 2009 Yankees. Gah!

Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer was all over this game. From fielding goat to RBI hero to game winning sac fly bat tosser. The guy had no hits, 2 walks, drove in 2 with sac flies. He also struck out twice. But he doesn't get The Hero in mfc's Bill Gallo Hero/Goat salute. 
That goes to Alex Gordon for his game changing home run, and The Goat goes to Jeurys Familia, for giving up that devastating stomach churning game changer.

__________________________________
____________________________

Post Game Quotes:
"Nobody wants to hit one inside the park.  When you hit it, you say, 'Maybe that's a double or a triple.' When I touched home plate, I said, 'Wow. That's a long run right there.'" ~Alcides Escobar

“As I ran after the ball, I looked at Conforto and by the time I looked back up I had lost the ball.” ~Yoenis Cespedes

“I wanted to redeem myself for what happened earlier. That’s the beauty of this game.” ~ Eric Hosmer 

“Yeah, there was a lot of baseball out there.” 
~Daniel Murphy 

“Their team, one of the things we know about them is they’re never down and out. We’ve got to put them away. We’ve got to do a better job.”~Mets manager Terry Collins

" If this post was as much torture to read as it was to write, I apologize."~Me

________________________________________________

Interesting post game fact:

Alcides Escobar's inside-the-park home run ball sold at auction for $19,200

______________________________________


Photographs by 
John Munson, Andrew Mills, Shane Keyser, Jill Toyoshiba, Allison Long, Howard Simmons, Aristide Economopoulos, John Sleezer, Christian Peterson, David Eulitt, Jeff Curry, Denny Medley, James Squire, LG Patterson, Sports Illustrated

Special thanks to Old-Time Baseball Photos on facebook for the fantastic photo of Hy Myers W.S. H.R.

mfc Colorizations: The Agee Catch. 64 Stengel.

I'd like to dedicate this post in memory of a friend who recently passed away, Robert "Ziggy" Ziegler. Bob was a Yankee fan and I loved him anyway. That pretty much says it all. Ziggy was a great guy and will be sorely missed. I extend my sympathy to his family.

1 comment:

  1. That Flores "not traded" card might be the best thing I have seen all day. Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete