The Mets beat themselves both dramatically and painfully in Game 1
Losses in the postseason hurt. Losses in the World Series always hurt more.
But its one thing if a team just beats the other. It’s another thing when the losing team beats themselves, and those losses hurt more than any other kind of loss.
It usually means a lost opportunity thanks to poor play and poor execution. And on this stage, even the slightest miscue is not passable, especially against a Kansas City Royals team who, when they smell blood, swarm their pray and move in for a harsh kill.
And in Tuesday’s Game 1 of the 2015 World Series, the Mets most certainly beat themselves, and the Royals ambushed them for it.
Whatever ends up happening in this series – and it’s far from over – there will be an everlasting image of Jeurys Familia allowing that solo home run to Alex Gordon with one out in the ninth inning to tie the game at four a piece.
It certainly left everyone watching in complete and stunned shock and disbelief. After all, he had only allowed one home run since July 30, the last time he blew a save.
“it’s just a part of the game. I left my fastball up in the zone,” Familia said. “I wanted to go away, down. I left it in the middle.”
That moment was ominously reminscent of Game 1 of the World Series when Armando Benitez was tasked with saving that game against the Yankees. He failed, the series completely flipped upside down on the Mets, who could only watch the Yankees runaway on that subway ride.
But like that Game 1 15 years ago, this Game 1 should never have been marred by Gordon’s home run off of one of the league’s best sinkerballers and split-fingered artists. This is baseball, and it’s baseball in it’s 172nd game for the Mets anyway. And over the course of 172 games pitchers – even the best like Familia – are going to make mistakes and give up runs.
The hope is, games and seasons don’t come down to rare mistakes from the game’s best.
In Tuesday’s case, it did. Or so it would seem.
Rewind back to the bottom of the first inning. Alcides Escobar hit a deep but routine fly ball to left-center field against Matt Harvey who threw a hard fastball down the middle to open the game against the league’s best fastball hitting team.
But again, the ball was playable. Yoenis Cespedes got to the spot, so did Michael Conforto. Both got there was time to catch the ball.
Neither caught it.
15 seconds later, Escobar recorded the first inside-the-park home run to leadoff a game in 113 seasons.
In reality, however, it was E-Mets, and most importantly, 1-0 instead of one out and nobody on.
“We were both going towards the gap, and I thought I heard something,” Conforto explained about the play. “It sounded like, ‘I got it,’ so, I pulled up.
“I really don’t want to make excuses,” Conforto continued. “I had a shot to catch the ball. Really, that ball can’t get down.”
The manager offered a similar explanation for the mis-play.
“Michael was there,” manager Terry Collins explained after the game. “He thought he heard Yo call for it. He did was he’s supposed to do, and that’s let him have it. And again, you’re talking about a guy that’s playing his first game with the crowd noise that he wasn’t really sure, he just thought he heard him call it so he gave way, and [Cespedes] didn’t get there.”
And like Conforto, who has really been outstanding in left field since he was called up, his manager did not offer any excuses despite the explanation.
Said Collins, “Michael could have caught it. He thought Cespedes called it. And he said, It was really hard to hear, but I thought he called it. Yeah, it should have been caught, but didn’t.”
Whatever the reason is for the ball not being caught, it doesn’t cure the fact the ball wasn’t caught and the non-catch resulted in a run that never should have been. In baseball and especially the World Series, games and seasons come down to the little things either being done or not done.
This was a monumentally large little thing that just wasn’t done, and ultimately came back to burn the Mets 8 1/3 innings later.
So, Familia allows the solo home run. It’s all good not for that unnecessary run which was allowed in the first. Familia otherwise retires the next two batters. Game over.
But on Tuesday, it gave the Royals new life, and like they always seem to do, they sucked the blood right out of their opponent and pulled the rug right out from under the Mets.
Sure, David Wright made a big throwing error in the 14th inning which, per the norm. the Royals capitalized on and ultimately won the game as a result. It was a very poor and unnecessary error on his part.
But it was a 14th inning that never should have been, thanks to the Mets already having beaten themselves five hours earlier.