By Andrew Kahn
Michael Conforto only had two hits in 22 postseason at-bats entering Game 4, though one was a home run in his first playoff at-bat. He added two more on Saturday, becoming the first rookie to hit two homers in a World Series game since Andruw Jones did it for Atlanta in 1996. Jones and Tony Kubek are the only players with a multi-homer World Series performance at a younger age than the 22-year-old Conforto. The 10th overall draft pick just last year, the outfielder went from Double-A to the Mets in late July. Despite the low hit count, he hadn’t looked completely lost at the plate in the postseason. But with Juan Lagares, the superior defensive outfielder, swinging the bat well, it was no guarantee Conforto would even be in the lineup on Saturday. In his first at-bat, he proved it was a good decision with a towering shot down the right field line:
He led off the fifth with a homer against the southpaw Danny Duffy, an impressive feat considering Conforto had only received 15 plate appearances against lefties all season. The kid could be a star and a fixture in the Mets outfield for a long time.
In 31.1 career postseason innings, Wade Davis has allowed just three earned runs. That’s a 0.86 ERA. All but three of those appearances came these past two seasons, and all but his very first, in 2010, came in relief. Davis hadn’t pitched since his scoreless inning in Game 1, so he was well rested and ready to pitch two innings on Saturday. He retired the side in order in the eighth, but allowed two one-out singles in the ninth. He got Lucas Duda to hit a weak liner to third base that Mike Moustakas snagged and threw to first to double off Yoenis Cespedes to end the game. With nobody covering first, Cespedes, representing the tying run, got a jogging lead, but didn’t break back towards the bag nearly quick enough after it was clear Moustakas was going to make the catch.
Davis was a middling starter for much of his career but a dominant set-up guy during Kansas City’s run to the World Series last season and most of this year. When Greg Holland got hurt, Davis stepped in to the closer’s role seamlessly. He still maintains a starter’s arsenal of pitches, and racks up the strikeouts while not allowing home runs (only three surrendered, total, the past two years).
Bullpen, defense cost Mets
The Mets bullpen in general was not a strength this season, but Jeurys Familia had been dominant. He blew his first save since July in Game 1 in Kansas City, and was charged with another blown save on Saturday. While he allowed a solo homer in Game 1, this time he was not entirely to blame. He entered the game with one out and runners on first and second in the eighth and induced a weak grounder to second. Daniel Murphy charged it, but the ball went under his glove and the tying run scored:
Mike Moustakas poked a single past a diving Murphy to give the Royals the lead, and Salvador Perez added another single to make it 5-3. Terry Collins’ decisions before that were questionable. Steven Matz batted with one out and nobody on in the fifth, but was pulled after allowing two hits to the start the sixth. Jonathan Niese retired the two batters he faced but was lifted for Bartolo Colon, who struck out Perez to end the inning. For some reason, Colon was taken out, and Addison Reed pitched a clean seventh. Tyler Clippard got the first batter in the eighth before issuing consecutive walks, at which point Collins turned to his closer. In other words, he used five relievers to pitch three innings, including two former starters who are more than capable of going multiple innings.
Death by singles
Those who didn’t already know are finding out during this World Series: The Royals can hit. They don’t have exceptional power—only six teams hit fewer homers in the regular season—but they put the ball in play constantly. Game 4 was much like the others in that the Royals had a lot of hits (nine) and most of them were singles (seven). Of their 37 hits this series, 27 have been singles. They only have one home run that went over the fence. But none of this is to say their runs have been cheap in any way—they’ve kept the line moving, put pressure on the Mets defense, and ran the bases fairly well. Their play has been far from flawless, but they’re showing their pennant last season was no fluke.
Royals on the brink
Game 7 was the Royals only chance to win last year’s World Series, but they’ll get three cracks at it this time, starting Sunday night at Citi Field. It won’t be easy, as they’d face New York’s top three pitchers: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. They had success against the first two in Kansas City, but it will be interesting to see how the hard throwers attack the Royals the second time around. Games 6 and 7 would be in Kansas City. The Royals will send Edinson Volquez, who lost his father the day of his Game 1 start, to the mound on Sunday. Both he and Harvey gave up three runs over six innings in Game 1. It is assumed Kansas City would continue through its rotation and go with Johnny Cueto and Yordano Ventura in potential Games 6 and 7.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about baseball and other sports at http://andrewjkahn.com and his Scoop and Score podcast is on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn