Royals 2015 World Series Champs: 10 Thoughts on Game 5

After a series in which the Mets led for 43 of the first 51 innings, the Royals emerged as World Series champions after 5 games. An unbelievable ability to pound out singles and scrap their way to runs made for a total team effort, and included legendary plays that will make this World Series one to remember. My thoughts on how the Royals won Game 5 and ended a 30 year World Series drought.

Granderson Strikes Again: As I’ve talked about all series, Curtis Granderson was the most consistent piece of the Mets offense. His 1st inning home run was huge for this team, and for the second time this series he took advantage of a mistake from a Royals pitcher while facing a two strike count. He took the hanging changeup deep, and gave the Mets the boost of confidence they needed early on in this game. But after his leadoff dinger, the Mets managed just three hits, and just one hit (with 2 outs in the 12th) after the 7th inning.

Harvey Missed Bats Early and Often: After only recording two strikeouts in Game 1, Harvey looked like his usual self, getting ahead in counts and missing bats all night long. He set the tone early by striking out Escobar to start the game, and looked at his best in the 4th and 5th inning striking out six of the seven batters he faced (Alex Gordon drew a 3-2 walk). He ultimately got his tally up to 9 k’s in 8 innings… but we’ll talk about his 9th inning later.

Volquez’s Heroic Effort: Yes, the story is Matt Harvey and the Mets’s collapse. But less than a week after his father’s unexpected death, Edison Volquez  pitched a gem of a game. He struggled with his command at times walking five batters through six innings, but other than a Granderson home run and a David Wright ground ball single, he dominated the Mets’s hitters. Advanced analytics don’t speak highly of guys who struggle with command, but I believe the best pitchers are guys who can keep their teams in games when they don’t have their best stuff. Considering how well Harvey was pitching, and the emotions he must have been battling, it was quite an impressive outing.

Mets Unable to Take Advantage: As I just described, the Mets were given lots of free base runners from walks (and added another on a Hosmer error). But despite the extra help, the Mets struggled to score. Yes, this has a lot to do with Volquez, but the Mets were not able to take advantage of good situations. Prime examples included Cespedes impatiently grounding into a double play to end the fourth (swinging on a 1-0 change up after five straight balls from Volquez), and the Mets managing to score just one run with the bases loaded and no outs in the 6th. They left a number of men on base all night, and ultimately paid the price for it.

Cespedes’s Injury: Unless you’ve experienced what it feels like fouling a ball off of your leg, there’s no way to describe how debilitating it can be not only physically, but mentally trying to hit a baseball a few moments later. Having personally done so against pitches in the 80 mile per hour range, I can’t even imagine how much that foul ball must have hurt Cespedes. Trying to hit an 0-2 pitch from Volquez is not a fair situation, when healthy, so I was not surprised to see Cespedes pop out. He probably should have swallowed his pride and come out of the game immediately, and hope Lagares (who hit well this series) could put the ball in play and score a run. Any athlete would have wanted to stay in the game their, but Cespedes may have hurt the team by doing so.

A Ninth Inning to Remember: Lots to talk about here, so I’ll go bullet style to keep my thoughts to 10, as I obviously also have extra innings to talk about:

  • Harvey demanded the ball in the 9th inning, and Collins did what most managers would do: trust their best pitcher to stay on point and get outs. But Harvey appeared to come out of the dugout too fired up; after getting ahead of Cain early he missed badly on high fastballs trying to strike him out, and Cain patiently worked a walk. At that point I would have taken Harvey out, as these Royals have proven time and time again they can make adjustments to get hits after seeing pitchers a few times. After getting up 0-1 to Hosmer, Harvey again caught too much of the plate, and Hosmer’s opposite field approach paid off. In the blink of an eye Harvey’s World Series ended with two no decisions.
  • Once again, the Royals played small ball. Despite seeming incompotent all night offensively, they scored a run off of Familia despite not hitting the ball more than 90 feet. Moustakas’s ground out to first base will be forgotten, but it was critical in getting Hosmer to 3B and allowing Hosmer to score.
  • The Hosmer run came thanks to fantastic base running. The nature of the ground ball led Wright away from third base; so even when Wright “looked Hosmer back” to the base, there was no need for Hosmer to move. Hosmer recognized this, and instead of heading back to the base, he alertly took an extra step towards home (and arguably should have taken more). He then patiently waited for Wright to reach his release point towards first base before taking off for the plate. With Wright’s recent throwing struggles, Duda’s reputation as a poor defensive first baseman, and the Royals struggling to swing the bat, I loved seeing Hosmer putting the pressure on the other team to make the play. Duda couldn’t deliver (a good throw would have beaten Hosmer), and this will go down as a legendary play in both Royals and World Series history.
  • Mets unlucky in the bottom half: Lagares hit a solid line drive for out number one and Duda followed with a fly out to the warning track. But the Royals made their luck all series, the Mets just seemed to shoot themselves in the foot.

Extras Yet Again: More extras, more bullets

  • This was the first World Series with an extra inning game since 2012, and the first with multiple since 2001. The only World Series to see three was 1991, arguably the greatest World Series of all time when the Twins walked off on the Braves in Game 7, a game that Jack Morris pitched a 10 inning complete game shutout.
  • Herrera was absolutely dominant in this game. He had not pitched more than two innings all season (he threw exactly two just once in a 7-6 Royals loss to Toronto in July), and shut the Mets out for three innings, biding the Royals time to scrape enough runs together to tie this game as they did in the 9th inning. Another unsung hero among a team full of them.
  • Perez’s bloop single to start the 12th felt like a double. Dyson’s speed and d’Arnaud’s documented inability to throw out runners (see “d’Arnaud can’t throw”) made it seem like a matter of when, not if Dyson would take second base. When Gordon got ahead 2-0, it was an obvious time to swipe the bag, and Dyson took it easily.
  • Even diehard Royals fans probably don’t know much about Christian Colon. The guy appaeared in just 43 games in 2015, and only 21 in 2014. He had just 12 RBI for his career in 106 at bats. But no one in Kansas City will ever forget his name now.
  • Murphy unfortunately continued to play himself into a reasonable contract. As I described after Game 4, very few athletes have played on both sides of the Hero/Goat spectrum the way he has manged to this postseason, and his 12th inning error proved to be another nail in the coffin for the Mets.
  • After the error, the rout was on. The second this game got to 3-2 it was over, and Escobar and Cain added insult to injury with more hits.

MVP: How appropriate was it for Christian Colon to drive in the game winning run in this series? This Royals team plays the ultimate form of team baseball, putting pride aside to put balls in play, play good defense, and force other teams into mistakes. As I said after Game 4 I would give this award to Ben Zobrist, but with the total team effort that it took have no qualms with the decision to give it to Perez, who hit a team high .364 and whose defensive value should not go unnoticed.

Royals Outlook: This young team could run the AL for years to come. With just a few key players set to hit free agency this off-season (Johnny Cueto, Zobrist, Ryan Madson), this team should return in 2016 ready to make another playoff run. Many people (myself included) thought their style of play was unsustainable, and their ability to come from behind late in postseason games does seem likely to regress towards the mean. But this team is for real and will likely be most people’s AL Central champion and World Series pick for 2016.

Mets Outlook: As devastating as a loss as this World Series was for the Mets there is plenty of reason for optimism heading into 2016. Harvey, DeGrom and Syndergaard appeared to be a three headed monster, Steven Matz shined as a rookie, and they made it this far without Zack Wheeler, a prospect considered by many to be better than Syndergaard or Matz. However, with Cespedes and Murphy set to hit free agency, this team will need to add some offense if it wants to get back to the World Series.

By Aaron Gillette

Eric Hosmer Image

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