A ninth-inning rally and a 12th-inning tiebreaking RBI single by Christian Colon sent the Kansas City Royals to their first championship since 1985. It was a game the Mets appeared to have comfortably in the bag, considering how well starter Matt Harvey was pitching. But as the Royals have shown time and time again, you can never count them out.
The Mets quickly took a 1-0 lead when Curtis Granderson led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run against Royals starter Edinson Volquez. Harvey proved, through eight innings, it was all the offense he required. The Mets gave him an insurance run in the sixth on a Lucas Duda sacrifice in the sixth inning. That inning also included what appeared to be an ugly injury to Yoenis Cespedes after he fouled a ball off of his left knee. He completed his at-bat but was replaced in the outfield the next inning by Juan Lagares. Cespedes was diagnosed with a contusion and thankfully avoided a fracture.
After Harvey completed the eighth inning in strong fashion, he was informed by pitching coach Dan Warthen he would not be returning to the mound in the ninth inning to complete his start. Harvey apparently made a compelling argument to manager Terry Collins, as closer Jeurys Familia remained in the bullpen and Harvey toed the slab to begin the ninth.
Harvey worked a full count against leadoff batter Lorenzo Cain before throwing ball four. Cain stole second base, and scored when Eric Hosmer ripped a double over the head of Michael Conforto in left field. Familia was finally brought in. He induced a grounder to the right side from Mike Moustakas, pushing Hosmer to third base. The Mets’ infield was drawn in, and Salvador Perez hit what appeared to be an easy second out, a grounder to third base, for the Mets that would prevent the runner at third from scoring. However, third baseman David Wright made a crow-hop in throwing to first base. Hosmer bolted home, and first baseman Lucas Duda made an errant throw to catcher Travis d'Arnaud. The game was tied at 2-2.
The two clubs would trade zeroes until the 12th inning. In the 12th, Mets reliever Addison Reed allowed a leadoff single to Perez. The speedy Jarrod Dyson entered the game as a pinch-runner for Perez and stole second base, the Royals’ fourth stolen base of the game. Alex Gordon hit a ground out to first base, which allowed Dyson to move to third. The next batter, Christian Colon, hit a line drive single to left field, plating Dyson to break the 2-2 tie. It didn’t stop there. Paulo Orlando appeared to hit an inning-ending double play to second baseman Daniel Murphy, but Murphy — as he did in Game 4 — booted the ball and no outs were recorded.
Following that, Alcides Escobar doubled to left field, adding an insurance run, putting two more runners in scoring position, and chasing Reed from the game. Bartolo Colon came in and Cain drilled a bases-clearing double to left-center, pushing the lead to 7-2. Colon was able to get out of the inning mercifully with no further damage.
Closer Wade Davis took over in the bottom half of the 12th and, as he has done so often, dominated the opposition. He struck out Duda and d’Arnaud, then worked around a single by Michael Conforto by striking out Wilmer Flores looking.
The Royals succeeded against the Mets in large part because they’re an aggressive-running, high-contact team. Only one American League team — the Astros — had more stolen bases than the Royals’ 104 during the regular season. No team struck out less often than the Royals during the regular season, getting a third strike in fewer than 16 percent of their plate appearances. The Royals went 6-for-6 stealing bases against the Mets in the World Series while racking up double-digit hits in three of five games. They had nine and seven hits in the other two.
But the Mets also made more than their fair share of mistakes, both by the players and by the manager (as I will explain in a separate column). Murphy made two devastating defensive mistakes, and Duda’s throw in the ninth inning could have ended Game 5 rather than extending it. This is not to take anything away from the Royals, but every success has a counterpart in failure.
The Royals, who narrowly lost last year’s World Series, have finally reached the promised land. The difficult decision-making doesn’t stop here, however, as they’ll head into an off-season in which they’ll see Alex Gordon, Johnny Cueto, and Ben Zobrist head into free agency while more than a handful of players will earn increasingly more money in arbitration. Their ability to deal with a changing roster will determine whether or not they’ll be able to repeat in 2016.