It was a symbolic end to a deflating loss for the Mets in Game 4
Saturday’s Game 4 of the World Series served as the definitive reminder that baseball could be just as joyous and rewarding as it can be humbling and provide an equally numbing feeling on the other side of the sports spectrum.
Look no further than Daniel Murphy, who single-handedly carried the offense through the battlegrounds of the National League Division and Championship Series. He hit seven home runs in the first nine games on the National League side of the tournament, turning in one of the most dominant postseason performances any offensive player has ever produced in postseason baseball history.
It was memorable, heroic, historic, and glorious for a franchise which has been starved for success over the last 30 years.
But the first four games in the World Series have mostly gone about as badly as the first two rounds went well for the Mets, and Murphy for that matter.
And it all came crashing down for Murphy and the Mets in Game 4.
With the Mets leading 3-2 with one out in the eighth inning, Tyler Clippard proceeded to walk both Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain, which was ominous to begin with considering the Royals had the lowest walk rate of any team in the American League at 6.3 percent.
That’s when Terry Collins pulled the plug on Clippard. Now, it can be argued Clippard should have been removed when he allowed the tying run to reach, and not the tying and go-ahead runs. But there was also no reason to not be confident in the abilities of his star closer, Jeurys Familia.
And in large measure, Familia fulfilled the promise he gave to his manager when given the assignment of a five out save while inheriting the tying and go-ahead runs.
But in what has been a recurring and ugly theme for the Mets in this series, the defense once again betrayed them at a most inopportune time on another routine play.
Familia induced a weak groundball to the right side which Daniel Murphy was forced to charge.
There was no way he was going to get a double play. He had to settle for the out at first, and just hope Familia could work his way out of the second and third, two out situation.
But alas, Murphy couldn’t get his glove down low enough, the ball trickled by him, and the game was tied.
“I didn’t make it the only time that counts,” he said at his locker after Saturday’s loss.
And as the Royals have done time and time again in this series and throughout their championship run, the moment they smelled blood, they swarmed their pray and ate their victim alive.
“I tried to one-hand it,” Murphy explained after the game. “It probably deserved to be two-handed. I just misplayed it. It went right under my glove. They made us pay for it. It put us in a really bad spot, and that’s frustrating.”
The next batter, Mike Moustakas, bounced a ball through the vacated hole on the right side to give the Royals the lead with an RBI single, a hole which would have been occupied by Murphy if he had been able to get the out he needed to in the previous sequence.
Or, perhaps the situation would’ve been completely different, as Collins might have opted to walk Moustakas to load the bases for Salvador Perez with two outs and the lead still intact.
But the error changed the situation, changed the inning, and possibly changed the series for the Mets.
Indeed, baseball can be cruel to even its own. It’s almost not fair that Murphy could be New York’s hero one week, and come crashing down to earth the next. There’s nobody in that room that felt worse than Murphy on Saturday night, as his error was completely representative of the theme of this series for the Mets.
That is a one of missed opportunities.
So much has been made of the Royals ability to make contact, battle in at-bats, and make things happen merely with their ability to put the ball in play. And there’s been criticism the Mets have been unable to tack on runs, extend leads, and execute proper situational hitting.
All of it is fair, but only to an extent. This is the World Series, and the Royals are on this stage for a reason, one of which is their ability to prevent runs against the opposition and create runs for themselves. Close, low-scoring games are inevitable, especially with the caliber of pitching in this series.
The same could be said for the Mets. Both teams have to be able to make do with what they have, and protect whatever lead they might have in the final third of the game, whether it’s a one run lead in a 3-2 game, or a five run lead in a 15-10 game.
The World Series always comes down to the little things in close games, and so rarely comes down who can outlast the other in a slugfest.
The Mets have not been able to do the little things, the Royals have.
Simply put, Murphy’s mistake on Saturday, Wright’s 14th inning error in Game 1 and Alcides Esc0bar’s inside-the-park home run are not a credit to the Royals and their ability to put the bat on the ball.
Not by a long shot.
Rather, it’s about the Mets not making routine, mundane plays to get outs in baseball games to protect their leads.
And because the Mets can’t make those plays, they can look squarely at two losses in this series and wonder what might have been if they had just made those routine plays and taken outs away from the Royals.
Murphy’s error on Saturday is merely a microcosm of their problem in the World Series in what has been a recurring theme all year long for this Mets defense.
And as any coach or manager might say, walks and errors go hand-in-hand, and are very, very contagious.