Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Long Night's Journey...

I guess it's somewhat fitting that a night that began so ominously for the Mets ended so wretchedly. For the most part, the Mets stood toe-to-toe with a hellaciously tough Royals team and had worked the game directly the way they wanted it to for the first 8 1/2 innings. But for one night, it slipped away, and in an extra-inning war of attrition the Mets ultimately blinked first, falling to the Royals in 14 innings in the first game of the World Series.

To put it kindly, Game 1 of the World Series was simply excruciating. Not so much because of poor play, but because the Mets and Royals are so evenly matched, and both teams had their gears grinding from the first pitch and the longer these games go, and the longer these series go and games remain well within reach for either team, the more excruciating it becomes. I was plenty anxious before the game even started and as things unfolded and stretched further and further into the night, I only got worse. I was a total wreck at the end of the game, and of course this was only Game 1.

But that's the World Series. And that's the plight of being a fan of one of the World Series teams. You try to do whatever you can to bring the team good Karma, wearing shirts, following superstitions or whatever but in reality all you can do is just sit there and watch the game unfold. That's probably the most painful part of this drama; for as much as fans like to think they have some control, we don't. It all comes down to the execution of the players, and who can create a break for themselves.

The Royals seemed to be creating most of the breaks, certainly early on when Alcides Escobar hacked at Matt Harvey's first pitch of the night and sent a screamer to Center that Yoenis Cespedes probably just didn't see, but whatever happened he didn't catch it and then knocked it away, allowing Escobar to circle the bases for an inside-the-park Home Run. And if that wasn't the worst possible way to start off a World Series, well, I don't know what is. That play basically set the tone for the evening, and the tone was that this wasn't going to go the way of the Cubs series. This was going to be tooth and nail for however many games it takes.

Harvey wasn't his sharpest early in the game, but he settled down, and most of the Mets settled down too, after being stopped by Edinson Volquez over the first three innings. Daniel Murphy, who else, got the Mets first hit leading off the 4th, pulled off another heady baserunning play when Duda singled through the overshift and then scored when Mike Moustakas couldn't' handle Travis d'Arnaud's screamer down the line. Curtis Granderson hit a Home Run in the 5th, and the Mets ran amok on the Royals again in the 6th, this time Cespedes doing the exact same thing Murphy did in the 4th.

At 3-1 and with Harvey cruising, things looked great, or at least whatever part of the game Fox allowed us to see looked great. The only problem was that the Royals are basically an entire team of tough outs and aggressive hitters and it seems as though they become even more difficult when they're trailing. Ben Zobrist seems to embody this better than anyone, because he spent the entire night ripping the Mets to shreds. His first-pitch double in the 6th kick started a 2-run rally that tied the game and ultimately ended Harvey's evening after 6 innings in which he allowed 3 runs on 5 hits, but only 2 strikeouts, because the Royals just don't strike out.

The Mets are tough outs too, and in the 8th they took their shot against the Royals virtually-impenetrable bullpen and somehow succeeded in scratching across a run. This, of course, was solely due to Juan Lagares, who took on Kelvin Herrera and refused to give in, fouling off several pitches of the 100mph variety before finally fisting a single. Lagares then stole second and scored when Wilmer Flores' ground ball hopped past Eric Hosmer at 1st base.

Yes, the game had indeed played right into the Mets hands. Ahead 4-3, the Mets went to Tyler Clippard for the 8th, and Clippard was alternately horrifying and great before departing a 2-on, 2-out situation in favor of Jeurys Familia. This was exactly where the Mets needed to be. Familia got the last out of the 9th and then came back out for the 9th and everything was just hunky dory until he left a pitch just slightly up to Alex Gordon...

...and that was the ambush we weren't expecting.

Familia hasn't been perfect this season, but he's been pretty close to it, which is why Alex Gordon's tying Home Run felt so momentously jarring and unsettling. I still don't think Familia can be blamed for it, certainly not after all he's done to get to this point. But that's still a really bad spot to have something like that happen.

Nonetheless, the game wasn't lost, deflating as that may have been. In fact, the Mets didn't fold at all. Jon Niese came in for the 10th and pitched two brilliant innings and Bartolo Colon followed and was similarly effective, weaving in and out of jams as only Colon can, without breaking a sweat. But the Mets offense had gone completely quiet. Juan Lagares tried to inject some life into things with a bunt single in the 11th, but he got no further than 2nd. Each time the Mets looked like they had something going, either David Wright or Michael Cuddyer would come up and strike out and short-circuit everything. Then Chris Young came into the game and just iced the Mets completely. Either way, the Mets weren't doing anything to help themselves offensively, and of course it appeared to be only a matter of time until the Royals caught a break because they kept plugging away.

It took until the 14th inning, but the Royals finally caught that break. It figured that it would be Escobar and Zobrist in the thick of things because they were doing it all night. Wright misplayed Escobar's grounder for an error, Zobrist followed with his 6th hit of the night to move Escobar to 3rd and you could basically stick a fork in this one because for as well as Colon has pitched, he can only pull his Houdini act so many times. Still, Curtis Granderson probably uncorked the best throw he's made in 5 years on Hosmer's fly ball and made the final play much closer than it should have been, but that didn't change the outcome and moral victories only count for so much.

So...yeah. 5 hours and 9 minutes and an ending time of 1:16am didn't make for a good night's sleep. In fact, I have to say I feel pretty damn miserable right now. This was a pretty deflating loss for the Mets. But just as much as coming from behind has been a staple for the Royals this season, the Mets trademark has been their resiliency and their ability to bounce back from tough losses. I keep saying this but as was the case against LA and Chicago, they just had to split the first two games. Particularly here, playing on the road. These Royals are a bunch of Tigers that have already been through this and although coming back from 0-2 isn't impossible, I'd rather not be in that position. Hell, I just don't want to be in the position of the ennui that comes following a Postseason loss. I was despondent after the Mets lost the 4th game against LA, just imagine how I'm feeling now. The one thing I can take solace in, other than that the Mets have the ability to bounce back, is the guy they're sending to the mound tonight. Jacob deGrom has stood tall in some pretty big spots this year and if there's anyone you want on the mound in a game like this, he's the guy.

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