WS Game Five: Crowned Royals, drowned Mets

On a dark night when the New York Mets needed a Dark Knight to keep them alive in the World Series, Matt Harvey did everything he could. And it ended up for nothing.

Nothing but the tying run home on a wild-wide throw from first. Nothing but the eventual winning run sent home by a guy who was making his first plate appearance in the entire postseason. Lighting the twelfth-inning depth charge that didn’t just beat but drowned the Mets ignominiously.

Duda's wild-wide throw home let Hosmer score the tying run on---mad? Try insane dash home . . .

Duda’s wild-wide throw home let Hosmer score the tying run on—mad? Try insane dash home . . .

These Kansas City Royals—that relentless, impossible aggregation who refuse to go gently into any dark night, gray or otherwise—shoved back hard enough to send it to extra innings and harder enough to win the game, the set, and the Series. When they had the chance, they refused even to let the Mets up for air.

Cristian Colon. A .359 on base percentage when he did play at all during the season. Lines a hanging slider to left with speedster Jarrod Dyson at second. Breaks a two-all tie. Opening the door through which the Royals proceeded to flood the joint in the top of the twelfth. Off one of the Mets’ heretofore more effective relief pitchers of the Series.

Bad enough to lose a World Series, but to lose it to a no-name when they were braced for names like Cain, Hosmer, Escobar, Moustakas, Zobrist to be their final executioners. You just know it had to hurt the hell out of these Mets.

“I knew the pitcher’s spot was up and I figured we were saving Dyson to run and I was ready to go,” Colon said after the game. “It was a moment I was waiting for for a long time. I was just trying to put the ball in play after everybody did their job and Dyson was stealing the base and getting to third. I knew it was high enough the shortstop wasn’t going to get it.”

These Mets. These in-over-their-head Mets. Who rode Matt Harvey’s magnificent Game Five start as far as they could before Harvey finally ran out of gas in the ninth inning, after he persuaded manager Terry Collins to let him try to finish what he started with a 2-0 lead.

Who probably got way ahead of their own likely real schedule to get to this postseason in the first place. Who played well over their own heads to get to this World Series at all.

All the Mets could do after Wade Davis struck out the side around Met rookie Michael Conforto’s two-out single was shake their heads and admire the tenacity with the Royals—abetted by no few Met mistakes along the way—bumped, shoved, and slapped them aside.

You almost don’t have the heart to tell the Mets that their most wounding flaw, their porous defense, was the real culprit in Game Five, that that porous defense let the Royals have the game back in the first place while the Mets offense that formerly terrorised the league in the second half of the season and bludgeoned their way to the Series went almost completely to sleep in the Series.

You don’t want to remind them that Lucas Duda threw the tying run home in the top of the ninth, with Jeurys Familia in after Harvey surrendered a leadoff walk to Lorenzo Cain and a follow-up RBI double to Eric Hosmer, when Series MVP Salvador Perez bounced to Wright at third, Wright threw him out, but Hosmer took off on the throw and Duda threw home wide and wild enough that Hosmer could score the tying run without a sweat after all.

“You have to tip your hat,” Duda said sadly when it was all over. “It took a lot of [cojones] for him to make that play. I saw him out of the corner of my eye, and I just didn’t make a good throw. No excuses.”

Yoenis Cespedes? Missing in action since somewhere in mid-September, figuratively speaking, except for a few fielding miscues and a rare poke. Daniel Murphy, the home run king of the earlier postseason rounds? Last seen with a foam bat and a concrete glove. Duda, the streaky one whose streaks could thrill and kill? Two runs batted in but seven strikeouts and nothing hit anywhere near the seats unless it was foul.

Neither do you really want to remind manager Terry Collins that it was one thing to stand by his man but something else to measure his fuel tank. You admire Harvey for wanting to finish what he started, and you admire Collins for going with his heart and committing to Harvey’s own, but you still wish Collins had stood by the tank reading and gone to Familia right out of the ninth inning chute.

Or, at least, after the leadoff walk to Cain. Never mind the packed house chanting “We Want Harvey! We Want Harvey!” as the eighth inning ended.

So does Collins. “I let my heart get in the way of my gut,” he said while the Royals celebrated what they set out to win from the word go this season. “I love my players. And I trust them. And so I said, ‘Go get ‘em out.’ If you’re going to let him just face one guy, you shouldn’t have sent him out there. When the double [was] hit, that’s when I said, ‘I’ve got to see if we can get out of this with only one run.’ And it didn’t work. It was my fault.”

Collins, whose heart overruled his gut, facing the music . . .

Collins, whose heart overruled his gut, facing the music . . .

A winner wants the ball. Harvey’s periodic diva act may have worn thin enough in New York—even as I write a New York Post columnist was still thinking about it being time to trade Harvey at last—but he showed himself a winner when he pleaded, barked, and begged Collins to give him the ball for the ninth. But sometimes when one winner wants the ball there’s another one ready to drive it away from him.

“When Hoz hit that double,” said Hall of Famer George Brett, a member of the last and previously only Royals World Series champions, “I said, ‘Here we go again.’ And you know what? I’m pretty sure everyone in [the Mets'] dugout was saying, ‘Here they go again.’ And everyone in the stands was saying, ‘Oh my God. Are they gonna have another comeback?’”

You also wish the Mets could have put the Royals away when they had their best chance, with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the sixth, and came away with nothing to show but Duda’s sacrifice fly to send home Curtis Granderson—who’d opened the bottom of the first with an 0-2 launch over the right field fence.

Except that Cespedes fouled one off his knee before popping out to shortstop, before the knee injury proved too much to let him continue. And after Duda’s sac fly, Travis d’Arnaud bounced out very modestly to shortstop. With Harvey dealing a mere 2-0 lead looked insurmountable.

Except that it wasn’t once Cain pried the ninth inning-opening walk out of Harvey and Hosmer ended the shutout with the double. Not that the Royals would have let the Mets go without a battle royal if they had done more with that sixth.

“You guys know what we do all season,” said Perez. ”We never quit. We never put our heads down. We never think about, ‘OK, the game is over.’ No. We always compete to the last out. And that’s what we do tonight.”

. . . as Perez (13) and the Royals dance.

. . . as Perez (13) and the Royals dance.

How particularly sweet this must have be for Perez. A year ago, that was him popping out foul with the tying run at third to end the Series in the San Francisco Giants’ favour. Now he was the Series MVP who’d hit the bouncer that turned into Hosmer’s insane dash home and who’d opened the twelfth inning dumping a quail to right field for an opening hit before yielding to the pinch runner who’d come home on Colon’s hit.

“[Perez]’s a beast,” said Cain, who hit the three-run double in the twelfth that hammered the Mets’ coffin shut. “He’s a monster. He’s our monster. That guy gives everything he has. Without him, we aren’t here right now.”

Familia suffered three blown saves in the Series and only one of them was his fault. Yet he refused to blame the defenders who blew the second two. “I understand,” he said quietly, “anything can happen.”

Anything did happen.

And if there’s one team in baseball that can make anything happen when the other guys make anything happen, it’s these Royals. Crown them. Fete them. Congratulate them. Just don’t decide to beat yourselves when you’re playing them. They’ll make you pay with interest.

12 thoughts on “WS Game Five: Crowned Royals, drowned Mets

  1. It may be too soon to use the D-word dynasty, but the Royals have the formula for winning baseball, if they can avoid losing players to free agency.

    Royals bullpen didn’t allow an earned run, from the 7th inning on in the World Series, while the Mets allowed 12 runs to score.

    The Mets outhomered the Royals 6-2, but that didn’t matter since Royals could string enough hits together, to score 5 runs like they did last night in the 12th inning.

    Who would have predicted that Michael Conforto would have the highest batting average among the Mets in the World Series with a .333 average?

    Even if the Mets had held on to their 2-1 lead in the 9th inning I couldn’t see this team winning both games in Kansas City.

    I predict that Terry Collins will never let a starter talk him into leaving them in again, after the Matt Harvey fiasco last night.

    • Ponder this: The Royals trailed in all five World Series games. They won three after trailing in the eighth inning or better. They scouted the Mets better than the Mets scouted them. The big key: play right into the Mets’ porous defense. They may have singled out David Wright and Lucas Duda as particular weak spots, but the Royals had the key: make the Mets defense work and they have a chance.

      Terry Collins knows his bullpen management—or should that be mal-management—is going to be under fire at least as much as his giving in and letting Matt Harvey start the ninth Sunday night. Consider:

      * Why ask Jeurys Familia to pitch the ninth in a blowout but not ask him for a six-out save in Game Four knowing Ned Yost would think nothing of asking Wade Davis for likewise?

      * Why warm up Jonathon Niese at all and not bring him in, then warm him up again later and finally bring him in? By the time Niese got into the seventh inning in Game Four he’d probably thrown enough pitches to equal a quality five- or six-inning start. Collins was lucky to get a scoreless seventh out of Niese but leaving him to start the eighth when Niese was clearly gassed cost him big. (P.S. I could see Niese moving to the bullpen full time in 2016, he worked very well out of it this postseason for the most part. Unless the Mets finish arbitration with him and then deal him for maybe another solid young outfielder.)

      * Losing Ruben Tejada really hurt the Mets in the long run. He may not be the greatest shortstop but he’s a league-average shortstop. And with Daniel Murphy proving to fall asleep at the plate in the Series, the Mets could have given themselves a better middle infield option by moving Flores to second base, where he’s really better suited, in late-game defensive shifts—just as he would send Juan Lagares out to center field and move Yoenis Cespedes to left for late game defense. I suspect next year it’s going to be Dilson Herrera coming up and into the Mets middle infield, with Flores staying a fixture (he actually played a fine shortstop this postseason but he’s really better off at second base) and Tejada becoming a kind of insurance policy.

      * Lucas Duda needs to go. He’s too inconsistent at the plate and he’s a defensive liability at first base. He threw away a should-have-been Game Five-ending double play—Eric Hosmer would have been out by fifteen feet if the throw had been on line.

      * Daniel Murphy was a question mark after his home run binge. Now he’s an exclamation point—at the end of “Bye, bye, baby!” He wasn’t the sole reason the Met defense handed the Royals the Series, but he was a big enough reason. When you can’t make plays a wheelchair-bound infielder could make, while your bat goes to sleep when it’s needed the most, thanks for the memories but we’d like to have a future. Someone will be fool enough to pay him what he hopes for off that home run binge, but it shouldn’t be the Mets.

      * I suspected Conforto would finally start to hit in the Series. His inexperience showed earlier in the postseason but he finally got comfortable. It’s just a shame that it wasn’t soon enough. But he’s going to be a presence next year and for many seasons to come.

      * It’s time for the Mets to cash Matt Harvey in. With Zack Wheeler due to return the Mets won’t hurt for solid starting pitching. Harvey’s act wore a little too thin in New York, and he’s got to be good for some of the Mets’ needed reinforcements.

      * They need to let Bartolo Colon, Tyler Clippard, and just about everyone else they got at the non-waiver deadline walk. (They’re all free agents now.) Addison Reed should be their setup man of the future; until he ran out of gas in Game Five he was having a solid Series. Juan Uribe is too questionable after that chest injury. Kelly Johnson is too inconsistent.

      * These Mets can come back to the postseason next year with a very few adjustments. And, with Terry Collins swearing on a stack of whatever holy books guide him that he will never again let any starter or home audience talk him out of a hook again.

      * The key man for the Royals to try to keep: Alex Gordon.

      • Daniel Murphy was a huge disappointment offensively and defensively in the World Series.

        I agree the hot and cold act of Lucas Duda is wearing thin. He may hit 5 home runs in 7 games, then hit none for the next month. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mets play Michael Cuddyer at first if Duda is traded, so they can some return on their money being paid to Cuddyer.

        My main concern is that if Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes are allowed to walk, that the Mets will be right back to where they were before the trading deadline. I agree that Tyler Clippard has to go. Am wondering why Addison Reed was used in all 5 World Series games. Not sure he was at fault for his poor showing last night, if he was being overworked by Terry Collins.

        • I could almost see the Mets unloading both Cuddyer and Duda in the right deals.

          If Cespedes and Murphy walk, I think the Mets would be making a play for someone like Colby Rasmus to form a center field platoon with Juan Lagares with Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson in the corner outfield positions.

          I suspected Reed might have been overworked myself. Collins probably thought he was still the best option even though he had a couple of others who’d done well in their few appearances. I’d have thought about a still-fresh Hansel Robles or even Sean Gilmartin. They both looked good in their Series appearances; I see them as solid sixth- and seventh-inning options next season, though you could use either in the setup role whenever Reed needs a rest.

          • Colby Rasmus hit with a lot of power for the Astros in 2015, but struck out 154 times in 137 games. He hit .138 when he had two strikes on him.

            Juan Lagares hit well in the World Series, and may hit better next season, if he plays everyday. He probably won’t play everyday though if Cespedes returns for the 2016 season.

  2. I think Rasmus can be worked with. He’s a fine defender and he can hit with authority, and he hit well for the Astros in the division series. Strikeouts don’t bother me; you’d rather see a guy hit into double plays? (Rasmus hits into comparatively few; his career average per 162 games: seven.) He’s also a good baserunner when he gets aboard. I think if the Mets go after him and their coaches work with him on tuning his swing, he’ll produce.

    Right now he’s one of the best outfielders in the business and he’d make a solid platoon with Juan Lagares. They might even find themselves in the same game as often as not, with one starting depending on the pitching matchup and the other going in midway through the game and going the rest of the distance.

    Bank on it: Yoenis Cespedes won’t be coming back to the Mets. Even if they were willing to meet his price, I suspect his near-complete disappearance from mid-September through the end of the World Series probably soured the Mets’ brass on him.

      • As it happens, Rasmus has filed for free agency. So has the Cubs’ Dexter Fowler. (I’d forgotten about him!) The Mets could have a pick of two prime center field talents if they choose not to try re-signing Cespedes.

        Alex Gordon has also filed but I see the Royals making a big effort to keep him.

        Also, moving to non-outfielders, keep an eye on Alcides Escobar: he can become a free agent if the Royals decline his club option. I can’t see them doing so, I think they’d like to keep most of this World Series team intact even if they’ll let Johnny Cueto walk for economic reasons, but then you never know. I don’t see the Mets showing interest because they have younger middle-infield options yet to play, but I’d bet if the Royals decide (crazily?) to let him walk he’d find suitors swiftly enough.

        Even World Series winners have been known to shoot themselves in the foot once the champagne’s gone and there’s nothing left of the parade but sweeping up the confetti.

        • I can’t see the Royals declining the option of Escobar, since his 23 hits topped all postseason players. They are going to have to pony up some big money to keep Gordon, since he is a star both offensively and defensively.

          • Escobar’s postseason might—might—move the Royals to re-negotiate him a nice extension if they let Gordon walk. This is going to be intriguing to watch, since both players have been serious keys to their resurgence.

            Something else to watch for next year: will Royals fans attempt another All-Star ballot-box stuff?

          • When I was watching the Royals celebration parade today I was thinking that Johnny Cueto and Alex Gordon may be spending time, with their teammates for the last time. Gordon says he wants to return to KC, but higher offer from another team might change that thinking.

            KC fans took the ballot stuffing too far, when they had Omar Infante leading at second base, when he was hitting about .220. Thankfully, the national fans didn’t vote him in. I may not have watched the All Star game if Infante would have started, since that would have made a travesty of the All Star game.

            Commissioner Manfred almost had to make a ruling, but the final vote had ridded the team of so many Royals. Teams should not be allowed to promote their team’s players.

  3. There’s nothing wrong with a team promoting its prospective All-Stars, but the fan votings can be quite different.

    The Royals could also lose, prospectively, Ben Zobrist and Ryan Madson. Johnny Cueto may be looking for the big-big payday and there was even talk during the World Series that the Royals wouldn’t be able to afford him. Right now Alex Gordon is a question mark. The Royals have a reputation for what ESPN calls a “culture of caring” from the top down and that might help sway Gordon.

    On the other hand, I notice the Mets are going to lose some relief pitchers not named Familia, Reed, Robles, and perhaps Gilmartin. Madson might actually be a nice, inexpensive pickup for them; he had a nice bounceback year and did well enough in the World Series, and if he can stay healthy he could do for the Mets all 2016 what Bartolo Colon (who’s probably also seen his last days as a Met) did for them in the postseason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>