World Series 2015: Royals win first title since '85 on Hosmer's mad dash, 12th-inning rally

NEW YORK — After all the talk, all the hype, all the drama that surrounded Matt Harvey this year, he delivered when it counted, and he delivered big. And it still didn't matter, because the Royals simply would not be denied.A third remarkable comeback in five games gave the Royals their first championship since 1985. They got the best Harvey had, the best the Mets had, and responded like champions, fighting all the way to the end and ultimately prevailing. The final score of the deciding game was a deceptive 7-2, deceptive until you note that it was in 12 innings, that the Royals would have lost the game had Lucas Duda made a good enough throw to catch Eric Hosmer on an ill-advised dash to the plate in the ninth inning. MORE: Five most important offensive plays of the Royals' title | Best photos from the World SeriesBut Duda didn't make a good throw, and the Royals, who left the tying run on third base in Game 7 of last year's World Series, succeeded by pressing their luck. The Mets had pressed theirs, too. For the fourth time in five games, it wound up that Terry Collins left his starting pitcher in just a little bit too long, even though this time, leaving Harvey in for the ninth seemed like the right decision at the time. With the Mets’ season on the line, Harvey delivered one of the most clutch starts in World Series history, holding the Royals scoreless until the ninth inning, but there was the trouble of that ninth inning, when Harvey issued a leadoff walk to Lorenzo Cain and gave up a double to Eric Hosmer, who then made a mad dash home on a ground ball to hand Jeurys Familia his record third blown save of the series.Harvey took one inning to match his strikeout total from Game 1, getting Alcides Escobar swinging on a slider and Eric Hosmer on a foul tip of a 97 mph fastball. In between, Ben Zobrist provided a brief moment of worry for the home crowd with a drive to the warning track in right-center field, and Lorenzo Cain blooped a single over Wilmer Flores at shortstop before stealing second base.It took the Mets three pitches to take the lead against Edinson Volquez, back from the Dominican Republic after the death of his father on the day of the right-hander's Game 1 start. Granderson, who had homered off Volquez in the opener, drilled an 0-2 changeup to right-center field and over the wall for his third dinger of the series.There was some history there that the Mets would like, in addition to Granderson tying Donn Clendenon’s team record for home runs in the World Series. With Alcides Escobar’s homer in the first inning of Game 1, 2015 joined 1969 — with homers by the Orioles’ Don Buford in Game 1 and the Mets’ Tommie Agee in Game 3 — as the only Fall Classics to feature homers in the first inning by both teams’ leadoff men.Volquez got through the rest of the first inning without further trouble, and two strikeouts of his own, but after Harvey worked around David Wright’s error on Mike Moustakas’ leadoff grounder in the second, the Kansas City right-hander issued a leadoff walk to Lucas Duda. That proved to be no trouble for Volquez, though, as Travis d’Arnaud hit a bouncer up the middle for an easy double play. Volquez ended the inning with his third strikeout of the game.The top of the third was the fourth consecutive half-inning in which the leadoff hitter reached safely, and it was a surprise this time as Volquez — with 23 hits in 277 career at-bats as a National League pitcher — became the first Royals hurler ever to record a postseason hit. He did not, however, join Bret Saberhagen as Royals pitchers to score postseason runs, as Escobar bounced into a 4-6-3 double play. Harvey wrapped his third inning — on a total of 33 pitches — with Zobrist flying to right.After a 1-2-3 inning for Volquez in the bottom of the third, Harvey removed any doubt about whether he brought his best stuff to the mound for this game with the Mets’ season on the line. He struck out the side, and did it with three different out pitches — Cain on a changeup, Hosmer on a curveball and Moustakas with good, old-fashioned 98 mph heat. Harvey was demonstrably pumped up as he came off the mound, and it was as clear as ever that Kansas City would have its work cut out to try to wrap up the World Series so long as the New York ace was dealing like this.Part of the equation would have to be Volquez keeping the Royals close, and his strikeout of Wright was the game’s fifth in a row via the whiff. After a walk to Daniel Murphy, Volquez got Yoenis Cespedes to bounce into an inning-ending double play. That was the 13th batter against Volquez in four innings — only the Granderson homer kept him from having faced the minimum.Harvey used a curveball to strike out Salvador Perez — his fourth straight K on four different pitches — then walked Alex Gordon to give Kansas City a one-out baserunner in the fifth. This did not concern Harvey, as the New York crowd chanted his name and he blew fastballs by Alex Rios and Volquez for strikeouts looking to get through five innings on a still-economical 67 pitches.MORE: Five takeaways from Royals' championshipDuda drew his second leadoff walk of the night, and after d’Arnaud flied to left, Conforto grounded out softly to first base to give the game its first runner in scoring position since the first inning. The Royals, though, were able to intentionally walk Flores, setting up an at-bat for Harvey. The move almost proved disastrous, as Harvey sent a ground ball deep into the hole at shortstop, but Escobar made a nice play on the move to field, throw and throw out Harvey. Volquez was through five innings having allowed one fewer hit than Harvey, on two more pitches.Escobar then became the first Royal since the third inning to put the ball in play, grounding out to third base in his third at-bat. Zobrist solved Harvey well enough to line a single into right field, but the Dark Knight remained a mystery to Cain, who struck out for the second time and became Harvey’s ninth victim overall. Hosmer made contact for the first time all night, grounding out to second as Harvey got through his sixth scoreless inning, again a stark difference from Game 1 when the roof caved in on him in that frame.Volquez tempted fate again with his third leadoff walk in six innings, this time putting on Granderson. For the first time since Granderson’s homer, the Mets got a base hit when Wright pulled a grounder between third and short. Murphy, who made an error on Hosmer’s ground ball to bring home the tying run in the Royals’ winning rally in Game 4, then reached on an error by Hosmer when the Kansas City first baseman could not handle a hard-hit grounder that could easily have become a double play.Instead, the bases were loaded with nobody out for Cespedes, with a chance to make up for everything that had gone wrong for him in the series. On Volquez’s 0-1 pitch, Cespedes fouled the ball off his kneecap and crumpled in a heap at the plate. After a three-minute delay for trainers to work with him, Cespedes was able to stay in the game and resume his at-bat in a two-strike count. It was a moment scripted for heroics, except that when Cespedes popped up on the 1-2 pitch, he could barely move.Duda continued his 0-for-0 night productively, with a sacrifice fly to bring home Granderson and give the Mets a 2-0 lead. Having had the bases loaded with nobody out, one run was both welcome relief for New York and somewhat frustrating as d’Arnaud grounded out to end the inning.Juan Lagares replaced Cespedes in center field as the seventh inning began, and on Harvey’s 87th pitch, Moustakas grounded a leadoff single into right field. More of that Kansas City seventh inning magic? Not on this night, not with Harvey. Perez popped up, Gordon flied to center and Rios grounded out. Moustakas never even got into scoring position, and at 93 pitches, Harvey would be available for the eighth inning.First, there was the matter of the bottom of the seventh, and a new pitcher for the Royals, with Kelvin Herrera replacing Volquez after six innings in which the veteran allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits with five walks and five strikeouts. Herrera, who entered in a double switch with Paulo Orlando going to right field, gave up a quick single to Conforto, but Flores bounced into a double play. Harvey grounded out to third, and returned to the mound for the eighth.It was an easy eighth, with a flyout by Orlando, a pop-up from Escobar and a flyout by Zobrist. It was a nine-pitch inning, and that meant Harvey would be able to go for it in the ninth.MORE: Harvey demands to go back out for the ninthHarvey had thrown only 97 pitches in each of his first two playoff starts before an 80-pitch effort in Game 1 of the World Series. He had not thrown more than 100 pitches in a game since Sept. 2, right before the innings limit drama reached its peak. Only one time all season, on April 25 against the Yankees, did Harvey even work in the ninth inning. The Mets saved him all year, as much as they could, and this was the time to use him, with the season on the line.The crowd chanted Harvey’s name between the eighth and ninth, and when Harvey sprinted out of the dugout to go to the mound, he got a standing ovation. Cain provided a battling at-bat to start the ninth, and when he drew a leadoff walk, it brought the tying run to the plate in the person of Hosmer. Collins had Familia warming up in the bullpen, but stuck with Harvey. On the first pitch to Hosmer, Cain stole his second base of the night, giving the Royals their first runner in scoring position since Cain's first steal, way back in the first inning. Hosmer one-hopped a double off the wall in left field, and that was it for Harvey. Familia would have to come in and make up for his blown save the previous night.Familia got Moustakas to ground to first, which moved Hosmer to third. The Mets brought the infield in with Perez at the plate, and he hit the ball to Wright, who thought he had looked Hosmer back to third enough to hold him there. Only, when Wright threw to first, Hosmer took off. A good throw home from Duda may have ended the game, but Duda's throw was well wide, getting past d'Arnaud and allowing Hosmer to score. The play went down as a groundout and an RBI, but it was a defensive flub by the Mets. Either way, it was Familia's third blown save in four appearances, and up next was the guy who had homered off him in Game 1, Gordon.Lagares led off the bottom of the ninth with a little line drive that, when things are going well, would be a single, but the tide had turned and Escobar got it on the run to his left. That brought up Duda with a chance to make amends for his hideous throw. On a 2-2 pitch, he sent a fly ball to left field that kept going, and going, and maybe it was going to have a chance to be something, but Gordon ran it down on the warning track, and also hauled in the much shorter fly hit by d'Arnaud to send the game to extra innings.Familia remained in for the 10th and the Royals had Kendrys Morales pinch hit for Herrera, who had pitched three beautiful shut

out innings. Familia struck out the Kansas City slugger, then got Orlando to hit a dribbler to finish the 1-2-3 frame.Luke Hochevar came on to pitch the bottom of the 10th, and after going to a full count, got Conforto to fly to right field. Flores grounded weakly to shortstop and Kelly Johnson, pinch-hitting for Familia, popped up in foul territory to send the game to the 11th inning in a stadium that was totally drained of energy.Jon Niese was the next Mets pitcher, and he got Zobrist to ground out to third on his first pitch, then Cain to fly to right on his third pitch and Hosmer to ground to first on his seventh pitch, except that Hosmer's grounder went past the diving Duda. On a 1-2 pitch in the dirt to Moustakas, Hosmer stole second base. Moustakas hit a flare to left field, but somehow, given the way things had been going, it hung up long enough for Conforto to make the catch.Granderson hit a mile-high pop-up to start the bottom of the 11th against Hochevar. Wright hit a ball well to right field, but right at Orlando. Murphy drew a walk, but there was no real threat, as Lagares rolled a grounder right to Hosmer at first.Addison Reed relieved Niese, who had thrown only 13 pitches, and promptly gave up a bloop single down the right field line to Perez. Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran for the Kansas City catcher and stole second on the 2-0 pitch to Gordon, who wound up grounding to first and moving Dyson along to third. Colon was the pinch-hitter for Hochevar, and the hero with a line single to left field to bring in Dyson. Orlando hit a double play ball, but Murphy rushed and failed to field the ball, so everyone was safe. Then Escobar doubled home a run, and it was 4-2. After an intentional walk to Zobrist, that was it for Reed, and Bartolo Colon entered from the bullpen.Even Colon couldn't stop the Royals' onslaught, as Cain ripped a bases-clearing double to make it 7-2. There was no doubt left that the Royals, three times trailing in the eighth inning or later in the World Series, were on their way to winning the title in five games.

About the author