Tragedy, comedy, drama, and even a little poetry. It was as if someone dumped the complete works of Shakespeare into a blender. That was Game One of the 2015 World Series.
The temptation is to try to rank these Royals postseason games. And why not? Contests of such epic scale demand they are accurately assessed and sorted in some manner. But there have been so many, at this point it’s futile.
The Royals won in the 14th inning on an Eric Hosmer walkoff sacrifice fly. It was Tuesday night. Or Wednesday morning. Hell, it could’ve been December for all we knew. The game lasted forever. Except it didn’t. There was an end. We saw it. And tiredly celebrated.
The game opened against the bizarre backdrop of the news breaking on social media that Edinson Volquez’s father passed away earlier in the day. Some outlets said Volquez knew. The Royals said he didn’t. Fox, the broadcast rightsholders, properly remained mum.
The Royals, as their prerogative all October, hit Alcides Escobar leadoff and it continued to pay dividends. He launched the first pitch to left-center. We know all about what happens in that area in the postseason. Outfielders get a bit… disoriented. By the crowd noise, by the lights, by their nerves, by whatever, we’ve seen more key hits to that area seemingly than any other part of the yard. In this one, Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes converged, then stopped, then kind of looked at each other. By that time, the only question was whether Escobar would stop at second.
An opening pitch inside the park home run. On the first pitch to Escobar. Do the Mets even employ advance scouts? How can you even decide to throw a first pitch strike to Escobar?
From there, the game settled into a comfortable rhythm.
The Mets boarded their own singles train to scratch a run to tie the game in the fourth. Curtis Granderson homered in the fifth. It was around this point, it looked like Volquez was fading. His velocity has been up all month, seemingly “from Gatorade” as he liked to joke. Does the tank empty a little faster when he’s so amped up so early? You would think so, but Ned Yost had confidence to leave him in the game to continue working through the order for a third time.
In retrospect, it was probably the wrong call at the time, but given how events unfolded, it was the right call by the end of the game. Singles by Cespedes and Lucas Duda (beating the shift for the second time of the evening) set up first and third with no one out. A batter latter, Cespedes came home with the third run of the night on a sacrifice fly. The Royals were down two.
This is where the Royals appear to like to do things. Ben Zobrist takes the first pitch of the bottom of the inning down the line for a double. Lorenzo Cain follows with a single. Eric Hosmer brings in a run with a sac fly of his own. It’s 3-2. Cain swipes second, which should be a theme for as long as this series goes. We know the Royals have shelved their running game this October, but against the Mets, this would be prime time to break it back out. There are rumblings their catcher, Travis d’Arnaud, is battling a sore shoulder. They need to take advantage.
Thanks to the steal, the Royals tie the game on a Mike Moustakas single up the middle.
With the game now turned over to the bullpen, you figure the Royals would find a way to scratch out the win. You just didn’t think it would take so long. In the eighth, with Kelvin Herrera on the hill and two outs, Juan Lagares singled. Lagares did not start but entered the game for defensive purposes in the sixth after the circus in the outfield to open the game. He stole second. With two strikes, Wilmer Flores hit one down the first base line. It’s a play Hosmer has made millions of times. This time, the ball had a little extra spin and skidded away from his glove as he moved toward the line to field it. It was a deserved error. Hosmer could have gotten his body in front of the ball. Even if the spin handcuffed him, he could have at least kept it on the infield. Instead, the rare defensive blunder led to the Mets fourth run of the night.
The Mets turned to their setup man Tyler Clippard to open the eighth. He’s had a difficult time finding outs this October. The Royals, to absolutely no one’s surprise, began to make some noise. It was that man Zobrist again, with another double to lead off an inning.
This is where things went off the rails. With Cain at the plate, he squared and pushed at a ball at his eyeballs. Strike one. He squared again on the next pitch and fouled it back. Strike two. He then waved at another high fastball. Strike three. It was an awful at bat. Just awful. There is no other way to describe it. It was made worse when you realize Cain had attempted exactly no sacrifice bunts all year. In fact, over his entire career he’s sacrificed exactly one time. Once. Just horrific baseball. Anyway, forget the numbers. You do not let your number three hitter bunt in that situation. Never. If Cain was freelancing, Yost needed to be on the top step yelling at him to knock it off. If Yost called for it… I don’t even want to consider that.
Hosmer followed with a putrid plate appearance of his own. The Royals had a golden opportunity and left it on third. At that point, you could be excused if you thought the game was over. It certainly felt like the team let the air out of the stadium after squandering a half inning that started so full of promise.
We know the baseball axiom: “It’s not over, ’til it’s over.” That’s never felt more true when applying it to these Royals. Down to their final two outs, it’s Alex Gordon who pulls his team back from the precipice. A monster bomb to dead center field against Jeurys Familia, a closer who has been absolutely lights out the last couple of months. Salvation in one swing.
From there, the bullpen took over. What another amazing, yet routine, outing from the pen. Eight innings. Five hits. One run. And 12 strikeouts. Chris Young, slated to pitch in Game Four, came in and was brilliant, even pumping his fastball to 90 mph. That’s a velocity he hasn’t reached since 2009. World Series baseball, man.
The great thing about baseball is it’s a game where redemption is always a possibility. Screw up one inning, you can make a difference the next one. That’s where Eric Hosmer was with the bases loaded in the 14th. He just needed to get the ball to the outfield to bring home the run and victory. His second sac fly of the ball game came with a bat flip. Because how else could this one end? Escobar, who opened the scoring some five hours earlier, crossed home with the winning tally. Mission accomplished.
That was a helluva ballgame.