Tuesday, November 3, 2015

World Series: Crowned Royals, Drowned Mets

By Jeff Kallman

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 12th-inning depth charge that didn't just beat but drowned the Mets ignominiously.

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 12th. 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 5 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 2-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 5, that that porous defense let the Royals have the game back in the first place while the Mets offense that formerly terrorized 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 Eric 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."

You don't want to remind them that most of their offense, which terrorized the National League in the second half of the season and did yeoman's work against Los Angeles and Chicago in the earlier postseason rounds, disappeared completely in the Series.

Yoenis Cespedes? Missing in action since somewhere in mid-September, figuratively speaking. 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."

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.

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, 'Okay, the game is over.' No. We always compete to the last out. And that's what we do tonight."

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.

Contents copyright © Sports Central 1998-2017