The morning after is never kind to the team that’s forced to watch a champion celebrate.
Especially after a World Series where everything that got that club to the dance went incredibly wrong in one fell swoop.
In what turned out to be yet another gut wrenching and heart breaking loss for the Mets, there was no question the Mets left everything they had out on the field on Sunday night at Citi Field.
The ending was unkind and the loss certainly left behind many “what-ifs” and “if-only’s,” but the Mets played their final game of the season with a lot of heart and emotion, doing everything they possibly could to get this series back to Kansas City.
Unfortunately, they fell a little short.
There was no greater example of the team’s heart and guts than Matt Harvey, who was beyond brilliant in Game 5, pitching on both adrenaline and emotion and letting his gifts of both talent and guile feed off of what looked like a very special moment in time for both he and the Mets.
For Harvey was brilliant for 24 outs on Subday night, dominating the Royals with a bevy of electric fastballs, tantalizing curveballs, a 90 mph change-up, and the sharpest teeth the Kansas City ball club has seen all year as he tried to will the Mets to a victory and keep the pulse on their season alive.
He had allowed no runs. He had allowed only four hits. He had forced nine strikeouts with his deadly assortment of power pitches from the gift known as his right arm. He had induced 15 swings and misses on the night, which was an accomplishment in and of itself against a Royals team that does nothing but make contact and grind the opposition up.
It was an act of heroism, fitting for the man who calls himself the Dark Knight of Gotham.
And he wanted so badly to complete his heroic act after the eighth inning. It was his game in precisely his way, and in his mind, there was nobody better for the final act of Game 5.
But Terry Collins said no, that it was time for Jeurys Familia. He sent Dan Warthen to deliver the news to Harvey.
That’s when Harvey approached Collins.
“No way, no way. I’m not coming out,” Harvey was seen saying to Collins in the dugout.
It was at that point Collins revealed his soft side and made a decision using his own emotion and heart. He went against his gut, and gave Harvey the ball for the ninth inning with Familia ready in the bullpen.
The crowd was pleading for Harvey to come back out for the ninth. “WE WANT HAR-VEY!” they all yelled.
And that’s when Collins was faced with one of the most difficult decisions in his career.
He went with his heart.
“I just trusted him. I said, ‘You got it. You’ve earned this. So go get ’em,’” Collins said he told Harvey.
As it turned out, Collins probably should’ve trusted his gut.
Harvey proceeded to walk Lorenzo Cain and allowed an opposite-field double to Eric Hosmer to plate the Royals first run.
That was it for Harvey. On came Familia. But by then, the Royals smelled blood, and when that happens certain doom became only a matter of time for the Mets.
“It’s my fault. It’s not his. That’s who he is,” Collins explained after the game.
Collins admitted to letting his own emotion get in the way of his game plan.
“Sometimes you let your heart dictate your mind,” he explained. “Again, we had said going in if Matt gave us seven, Jeurys was going to pitch two. I’ve got one of the best closers in the game. I got him in the game, but it was a little late. And that’s inexcusable, for me.
“Matt will tell you different because he’s a tremendous human being,” Collins continued. “He’s going to say how he wanted to be out there and should be out there. Dan said the same thing. He’s throwing the ball great. But if you put Jeurys in, he would’ve gave up the two runs, ‘Well, you should’ve left Harvey.’ I know how it goes.
“I won’t be sleeping much the next couple of days, I’ll tell you that,” he concluded.
Collins is wrong. It’s not his fault. It was the right call. There are points in the season when gut feelings, science and intuition go out the window and the manager has to make a decision for the spirit of his club.
With their backs against the wall and his best pitcher pitching the best game of his life, there was no other decision to make. It was Harvey’s game.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, and Collins’ decision to deviate what he knew initially might be the right call to remove Harvey might haunt him for months.
But he has nothing to be ashamed of. It was the right decision for the perfect moment. For Harvey was going to save Gotham for another day and at least extend the seaso into Tuesday.
It was another best laid plan that just went awry, thanks to a Royals team go always turns nothing into something at some point in a ballgame.
Sometimes, caps must be tipped to the other team. The Royals deserve many caps tipped their way for the things they were able to do in this World Series.
For the Mets, ther are a lot of, “what-if’s,” ranging from their offensive woes to their inability to catch and throw the ball.
And certainly, Collins can ask himself for the rest of his life ‘what if I had ignored Harvey and gone with Familia?’
Perhaps the outcome might have been different. Who knows.
But it’s that trust Collins has built with his players which helped get them to that point.
That in and of itself deserves credit in the decision.
It just didn’t work out.
But this was simply another recurring theme for the Mets in the World Series. For every button Terry Collins pushed didn’t work at all, and every button Ned Yost pushed led to glorious victory.