And This was Just Game 1

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The game that began this year’s World Series will make it next to impossible for another game in the Series to come close to it for action, suspense, pathos and almost anything you’d want in a baseball game. Game 1, a victory for the Royals 5-4 in 14 innings over the Mets tied for the longest World Series game with 14-inning contests from 2005 and 1916. It had all the action of game 1 of the 2000 fall classic won in  13 by the Yankees over the Mets. And it had features never seen in the modern game. The winning and losing pitchers were men who earn their daily bread as starters but who were in the bull pen for situations such as this. Usually  capable players  made sandlot gaffes and the normally ubiquitous light of television was all too briefly extinguished.

From the very first, we listening on WOR radio in New York knew it would take a special effort for pitcher Edinson Volquez to stop the Mets. Radio listeners were told, (though Fox viewers were not,) that Volquez had lost his dad earlier in the day in the Dominican Republic. Daniel Volquez had died of heart trouble but Edinson’s wife Roandi appealed to the team who asked Fox not to put the word out on TV. Somehow, even with social media being what it is and with the crowd chanting “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie,” while he pitched Volquez did not get the news. I have found out from a source familiar with the Royals that the chanting is a common thing when Volquez pitches, so there was no reason for him to suspect something was amiss. That was,   until he saw his wife and the team general manager Dayton Moore in the clubhouse after he left the hill in the sixth inning.

The general manager in baseball is what a human resources person is in the real world, and seeing your wife and the G.M. awaiting you means trouble. The Royals had been in this spot  this year. Pitcher Chris Young lost his dad last month, and third baseman Mike Moustakas’ mom passed away in August.

Volquez got all 3 Mets he saw in the visiting first inning. Leading off the home first, Alcides Escobar hit an inside the park home run, the first in the World Series since 1929. That one was struck by George “Mule” Haas. No recording of it exists, since no World Series was recorded for posterity until 1934. So Escobar’s feat is the first of its kind which can be and will be replayed in times to come. It will go down as an inside the park home run though it might have been caught by either Michael Conforto or Yoenis Cespedes if they hadn’t done their impression of Gus Bell and Richie Ashburn of the ’62 Mets-each waiting for the other to catch it while neither one did. Matt Harvey, who has seen this movie before in the Mets’ outfield settled in and kept the Royals’ bats quiet waiting for the Mets to say their piece. They did this in the middle 3 innings. In the fourth, after singles by Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda the batter was Travis D’Arnaud. The catcher, seldom known for speed somehow beat out an infield hit tying the score. An inning later Curtis Granderson broke the tie on one swing, a conventional home run over the right field fence.

While this was going on, an unprecedented event in modern television occurred and actually delayed the game by some five minutes. At first it seemed Mets’ manager Terry Collins was talking to the home plate umpire Bill Welke about the state of Matt harvey, whose pitching arm will always be a source of concern to Mets fans. Then the Royals’ boss Ned Yost joined the confab with Welke. Just about then Mets’ broadcaster  Josh Lewin told the radio and Internet listeners the TV feeds in the booth had all failed. Soon we found out it was worse than that. Fox was totally knocked off the air. This meant, (horror of horrors,) that the managers couldn’t call for a review. Joe Torre, looking like a modern Dick Tracy was called to decide whether the game could go on without replays. Meantime, Fox viewers at home first heard silence and saw a screen saying “We are experiencing technical difficulties,” which took older viewers back 45 years to a time when this happened all too often. Then the studio hosts, unable to prepare for the impossible took to the air. Then Torre, like Dick Tracy of old saved the day. He decided the show must go on, TV or not TV. Two batters into the home 4th Fox brought US viewers the international feed with an old colleague of mine, Matt Vasgersian at the controls. He broke in to baseball radio in 1991, the same year I did. The International Feed is for English speaking viewers outside the US and Canada, plus people who stream the games on illegal internet links mostly based in Europe. But for nearly two innings his commentary was heard by Fox viewers on this continent as well. Even that service was glitchy-according to WOR radio everybody missed Curtis Granderson’s home run. It appears to have been a mechanical failure as opposed to human error. Had it been human error,  I wouldn’t care to be the human with his neck on the block.

By the time the Mets scored in the sixth to make it 3-1, the TV was restored, God was in his Heaven and all appeared right with the world. Cespedes and Duda singled to start the sixth off. After D’Arnaud struck out, Michael Conforto hit a scoring fly ball making it 3-1 Mets. While the next play looks harmless enough in the box score, it was the turning point of the game. Wilmer Flores hit a sharp grounder to third. Mike Moustakas had to dive for it, then get up and throw him out. From there on the momentum was with the home team. Ben Zobrist doubled, Lorenzo Cain singled. Eric Hosmer made it 3-2 with a scoring fly ball. After cain stole second Moustakas drove him home to tie the score. The Mets scored their last run in the top of the 8th. With two out and none on Juan Lagares, who was replacing Michael Conforto fought a 9-pitch duel with Kelvin Herrera before singling to center. He stole second and scored when Flores reached on a rare error by Hosmer at first. But this wasn’t the Mets’ night. David Wright singled in the 9th but was thrown out stealing, an idiotic thing to try with Daniel Murphy and Cespedes coming to the plate. It wasn’t Wright’s last fumble of the night.  In the last of the 9th the usually reliable closer Jeurys Familia blew the save by giving up a home run to the 8 hitter in the order Alex Gordon. The Mets only hit one ball out of the infield through the 14th inning. In the home 14th, with Escobar up he hit a grounder which first was bobbled by Wright, after which he threw it wildly to first. After a hit by Zobrist, Cain was purposely passed to set up a force at any base. But Hosmer won the game for the Royals with a scoring fly ball that sent some 37,000 fans home happy.

Now, both teams need to exhale and realize there could be six more games yet to play. Jacob DeGrom gets the ball for the Mets tonight against Johnny Cueto of the Royals. Both bull pens were depleted by last night’s marathon, so both starters need to go as deep as they can tonight. DeGrom is unbeaten on the road this postseason but has pitched a career high 211 innings.  If DeGrom fails, Sean Gilmartin,  Hansel Robles and Steven Matz  are the only known pitcher for the Mets who did not work last night. Matz would only be used in desperation, as he is the game 4 starter. Chris Medlen and Franklin Morales are the two Royal pitchers who did not appear last night. The Mets remember Cueto from his years with the Reds, and know they must win this one to break even before they return to Citi Field Friday night.

 

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