If Game 1 is any indication, we are setup for an epic World Series. We saw the bizarre and the incredible, technical difficulties, 14 innings, and the kind of unbelievable, unscripted baseball World Series lore is built on. You can’t ask for much more than inside and outside the park homers, diving plays and clutch hitting. But throw in free baseball (and Taco Bell on November 5th), and everybody wins. Well that’s not exactly true, as the Mets lost an absolute heartbreaker. Here are my 10 thoughts on Game 1 of the 2015 World Series.
Bizzarre Start: After not trailing the entire NLCS, the Mets dug themselves into a hole on Matt Harvey’s first pitch. Alcides Escobar got into a fly ball to deep Center Field, but the ball should have been caught. These types of plays are easy to throw into the “well the Mets sat out a week category,” but Yoenis Cespedes has been known to make these kind of mistakes, and even some of his “best plays” have come from his own miscues.
Small Ball Abound: The Royals were dealt a taste of their own medicine in innings 4, 6 and 8 as a “pesky” Mets offense scored runs without much power. The Mets strung three singles together to score a run in the 4th, with the third coming via an infield single from catcher Travis d’Arnaud. They added another small ball run in the 6th when Cespedes went first to third on a seemingly harmless groundball from Lucas Duda that barely beat the shift, leading to Conforto’s sac fly that was just deep enough to beat gold glover Alex Gordon’s toss. They added another 8th inning small ball run (more on that later), but the Royals proved to be small ball kings again. In the bottom of the 6th inning, the Royals did what they do best to eliminate a two run deficit: double, single, sac fly, stolen base, single, tie ball game. And yes they got a big homer in the 9th (more later), but they got in the win column from extra-inning small ball.
Technical Difficulties: I have so many questions about the technical issues from the bottom of the 4th inning (and briefly in the top of the 5th). How is this still a thing in 2015, especially without a Beyonce performance? Does Fox just keep a crew of guys in suits standing around a table or was that just a coincidence? Could they not find a better analyst than Dontrelle Willis? Is Joe Torre so despearte to be a relevant part of a World Series again that he pulled the plug? Kidding aside, this is the World Series and this was not acceptable, and the MLB got extremely lucky no replay reviews were needed during the “difficulties.”
The Grandy Man Can: I talked about it in our World Series Preview, but if it were not for Daniel Murphy’s historic run, Curtis Granderson would be the playoff MVP of this Mets team. One benefit of the technical difficulties was getting away from Joe Buck’s monotony and hearing Matt Vasgersian (assigned to be on the international feed) point out that Granderson leads the league in pitches per plate appearance. Granderson’s ability to not only put the ball in play in any count, but inflict damage in any count makes him one of the toughest outs in baseball, and his home run on a 1-2 pitch backed up that reputation.
Defense Lives up to the Hype (sort of): After Cespedes’s disastrous first play, these two teams took turns flashing the leather. Wright made what is turning into a signature play in a leaping grab to rob Perez, Escobar robbed Johnson of a hit showing off great range and making a great throw, and then had the tables turned on him by Wilmer Flores. A half inning later? Moustakas’s diving catch. But this game will be long remembered for Cespedes’s gaffe, and errors by Hosmer and Wright that were key moments in this ball game.
Unsung Heroes: Juan Lagares put up quite the fight in the 8th inning, stroking a single up the middle on the 9th pitch of an at bat against the virtually un-hittable Kelvin Herrera. A stolen base and an error later, he scored the go ahead run. But not only did he give his team a late run, but he also forced Herrera’s pitch count up to 27 pitches after his at bat, and Herrera ultimately threw 34 pitches. If Herrera appears and struggles Game 2, Lagares’s at bat will be a big reason why. For the Royals, Ben Zobrist’s value shined through. Considered mostly throughout his career as a sure-handed versatile defender with a decent bat, he has become a big part of this Kansas City offense. His value to this team shined through in Game 1, as he hit clutch lead off doubles in both the 6th and 8th innings, immediate answers to innings where the Mets added crucial runs. He got stranded at 3rd in the 8th, but he came through again in the 14th with a clutch single to move the winning run into place.
Extra Inning Quick Hits: After Lagares’s bunt single in the 11th, I’d be shocked to see him not start Game 2… You expect lots of strike outs from Wade Davis (who had 3 in the 10th), but Niese blowing away 2 in the bottom of the 10th and escaping the 11th unscathed was just as impressive… Although he wouldn’t have done so without Granderson’s catch, as Dyson would’ve walked into 3rd base… Daniel Murphy’s strikeout in the 12th was ridiculous: a bad swing, a bad block and a crazy bounce led to him being thrown out at first… Chris Young’s dominance (starting with him striking out the side in the 12th) could be a bad sign for the Mets when he takes the mound Game 4… Please let Bartolo pitch until he’s 50… Credit Escobar’s speed and constant ability to get on base with forcing Wright’s bad throw.
MVP Watch: Yes it’s only been one game, and this is way too early, but let’s have some fun. We’ve talked about nearly a dozen players already in this article, but Gordon’s 9th inning home run defines what playoff legends are made from. This game does not go 5 hours or 14 innings without his blast. But the Dark Horse may be Chris Young; if he can pick up another win later this series, he has a good chance to take home the honors.
Game 2 Look Ahead: After an absurdly entertaining and stressful Game 1, Game 2 has a lot to live up to. But with DeGrom and Cueto facing off, it could be another close fought game. The recent starts from these two aces may tip the scales towards the Mets on paper, especially since the Royals team has yet to face DeGrom, and Cueto is just 3-4 lifetime with a 4.02 ERA against the Mets in 11 starts. The Mets need this win badly though, as 11 of the last 13 Game 1 Winners have won the World Series, and no team has overcome an 0-2 deficit since the 1996 New York Yankees. Get a quick nap guys, Game 2 is just a few hours away.