By Andrew Kahn
The Kansas City Royals won their second World Series title on Sunday with a 7-2 win in 12 innings at Citi Field in New York. The Royals only loss in the series came in Game 3. After getting to the World Series last year, Kansas City took the next step and won its first championship since 1985.
The Royals came back in all four of their World Series wins, the first time to do so since the Angels in 2002. And for the most part, they trailed late. The Mets scored first in three of the four Royals wins. The Royals trailed going to the ninth of Games 1 and 5 and entering the eighth in Game 3. Mets closer Jeurys Familia ends up on the wrong side of history, becoming the first player to blow three saves in a single World Series. He gave up a solo home run in the ninth inning of Game 1, a mistake that is solely on him and yet something that is going to happen now and then against even elite relievers. In Games 4 and 5, he did little wrong. He entered in the eighth on Saturday, after Tyler Clippard had walked two, and faced four batters. Three of them hit weak ground balls. And yet, three runs scored. He entered with a runner on second a 2-1 lead on Sunday and induced three groundouts. The Royals deserve a lot of credit for their resiliency—and they have a trophy to show for it—but Familia must be looking at the “BS” next to his name in the box score and considering its alternate meaning.
Hosmer’s mad dash
The tying run in the ninth in came on a stunning and rarely seen play. Eric Hosmer was on third after advancing on a groundout when Salvador Perez hit a squibber to the left side of the infield. Third baseman David Wright played it off one bounce in front of shortstop Wilmer Flores and looked at Hosmer for a moment before crow-hopping and throwing it to first to get Perez. The instant Wright got into his throwing motion, Hosmer took off for home, and Lucas Duda’s throw sailed far wide of the target.
It was a gutsy play, especially since a good throw would have ended the game. Hosmer had an interesting series. He made a critical error in Game 1 and another in the sixth inning on Sunday that led to a run; his play in the field was very shaky for a two-time defending Gold Glover. And yet, he redeemed himself in both games (he had the game-winning sac fly in the series opener), including a run-scoring double to start the ninth inning madness. He only hit .190 in the series (three singles and the aforementioned double) but drove in a team-high six runs.
Perez, the catcher who made the final out of last year’s World Series, was named the MVP. He singled to lead off the 12th and his pinch runner, Jarrod Dyson, scored the winning run. For the series, he was 8 for 22 (.364) with two RBIs and three runs scored. He wasn’t an obvious choice, but that was only because this title was such a team effort. The Royals, in assembling their roster, seemed to zig while the rest of baseball zagged, emphasizing contact and speed over power. Their starting pitchers are not dominant, but there are no weak links and their bullpen is versatile and extremely effective. Closer Wade Davis made three appearances in the series and didn’t allow a run, striking out eight over four innings. Perez, like many of the Royals, is a great fastball hitter who can foul off two-strike pitches and eventually make contact and often deliver a hit. He lacks the speed of many of his teammates, but they picked up the slack against the Mets, stealing bases at every opportunity. It seemed like every walk or single was a virtual double. They stole seven bases in the series, including four in the decisive game.
Harvey’s dominant outing
The Mets needed Matt Harvey to be dominant and he delivered. Through eight innings of work, he struck out nine, and allowed just four hits and one walk. Only once did a runner get as far as second base (Lorenzo Cain after a two-out single and stolen base in the first). He left the field after the eighth having retiring six batters in a row, but Terry Collins decided to lift him. Harvey was having none of it, as cameras caught him demanding he stay in the game. The Mets had a 2-0 lead, but Harvey walked the leadoff hitter, Cain, in the ninth. Cain stole second and Hosmer doubled, at which point Collins officially made the move and brought in Familia. After the game, Collins said, “I let my heart get in the way of my gut,” less confusing phrase if you assume he meant “head” instead of “gut.” Collins added that he loves and trusts his players and that he should be blamed for the result. It was a tough call with no right or wrong answer. Familia probably closes it out if he starts the inning, but sticking with Harvey seemed like the right thing to do, especially if Harvey felt strong and wanted to finish. Then again, is a competitor like Harvey ever going to suggest he come out in a spot like that? It was just another example of a Collins decision backfiring—even if it wasn’t necessarily incorrect—and the Royals taking advantage.
Rematch in 2016?
It was a long season—this was just the fourth year that baseball lasted until November—but a memorable one for these two teams. We know for sure there will be a rematch next season: these two teams open next year with a two-game series in Kansas City. It will be a particularly painful Opening Day as the Mets watch the Royals raise their championship banner. Both teams look primed to get back to the World Series, but baseball doesn’t work that way and you really never know. Among Kansas City’s free agents are regulars Alex Rios and Ben Zobrist, starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Chris Young, and relievers Ryan Madson and Franklin Morales. New York has bigger questions: while pitchers Bartolo Colon and Tyler Clippard are free agents, the debates will rage over whether to re-sign Daniel Murphy and/or Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets greatly benefited from Cespedes’ hot bat after acquiring him at the trade deadline, but may be disinclined to offer him a long-term deal. Murphy was red hot for much of the postseason but he’s typically a low-power, low-walk player with an inconsistent glove. But the Mets will need to go after some hitters to complement their great starting pitching.
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