Most of America fell back an hour at 2 A.M. this morning. The Mets, in a position to tie the World Series at 2 games apiece fell back around 11 PM instead and lost 5-3, putting them in a 3 games to 1 spot with game 5 tonight at Citi Field.
Suitably enough the game was played on Halloween. By the end of the night, 3 goat costumes were ready to be picked up-one each for manager Terry Collins, reliever Tyler Clippard and second baseman Daniel Murphy. Earlier on, if a goat costume or a dunce cap were needed they would fit Royals right fielder Alex Rios for one of the more astonishing plays you ever will see, particularly in a World Series game.
As the game began, it was the classic matchup of the young phenom, the Mets’ lefty Steven Matz and the wily veteran, Royals starter and former Met Chris Young. The two pitchers matched zeros until the home third when Michael Conforto hit his second home run of the postseason. The shot leading off the inning was the first for him since he hit one off Clayton Kershaw on his first postseason atbat. Wilmer Flores singled and took second on a wild pitch by Young. The Mets’ pitcher Matz sacrificed Flores to third. Then things got weird. On a fly to right which would have been difficult for Flores to score on, Alex Rios-who has played in the majors since 2004-forgot there was only one out. He started jogging in towards his bench. Only then did he see Flores heading home and by then it was too late. Flores scored making it 2-0. An obviously stunned Young then walked David Wright but got Daniel Murphy to pop out to end the inning. Both pitchers put up zeros in the 4th. In the visiting fifth with one out Salvador Perez got his second hit of the night, a double to left. Alex Gordon drove him home with a single to right. In spite of a single by Kendrys Morales hitting for Young, Matz got out of the inning with no further harm done. I was wondering out loud why Royals manager Ned Yost would take Chris Young out when he’d only given up two runs in 4 innings, with only one of those runs being legit. I wondered still more when Conforto greeted new pitcher Danny Duffy with his second home run of the night. Of his 3 home runs, two by the lefty hitting Conforto are off lefty pitchers-Kershaw and Duffy. This gave the Mets a 3-1 lead. The momentum began to turn when Granderson, who had walked was thrown out stealing with David Wright at the plate to end the fifth. In the sixth Matz gave up hits to the only two men he saw-a double to Ben Zobrist and an RBI single to Lorenzo Cain. From here on the managing of the Mets’ Terry Collins becomes puzzling. He called on lefty Jonathan Niese to get lefties Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, which he did. Instead of leaving well enough alone he went to Bartolo Colon who promptly air-mailed a pickoff throw to second moving Cain to third. Colon got Perez out on strikes and the Mets survived the sixth. With the tail of the order coming up in the 7th and a consistent starting pitcher on the hill, Collins removed Colon for Addison Reed. While Reed got his 3 men he could have been saved for the 8th if Colon had needed help then. As it was, the Mets didn’t get any insurance runs. The game-turning and possibly series-turning disaster came in the 8th. Addison Reed had gotten his 3 foes in the 7th, but instead of being given a chance in the 8th Tyler Clippard came on. Clippard has struggled mightily both in September and in the postseason. After getting his first man he walked both Zobrist and Cain. In came Jeurys Familia hoping for a save if he could get five outs. He induced a grounder from Hosmer but Daniel Murphy made an error allowing the tying run to score. That ball going under his glove will be remembered both by fans and by possible future general managers a lot longer than the 7 postseason home runs Murphy has, all of which were in the NLDS and NLCS. Murphy, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the World Series, could have written his own ticket and named his price after the Cubs’ series. Especially if the Mets don’t rally, that error will cost Murphy untold millions on his next contract. From there what happened was inevitable. Mike Moustakas single home Cain, and Perez singled Hosmer home on his third hit of the game. The Mets’ last stand came in their last atbat. Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes, who is also a free agent after the series singled. But on a soft liner to third which Moustakas caught, Cespedes who should not have been off base was caught with no way to get back to first. Double play, game over.
For the Mets to win the series now, one thing has to happen which Mets fans have come to expect, and two things we haven’t seen all year have to happen. What fans expect is for Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard to pitch the way they have all season long. If they do, with help from the hitters that should give the Mets a chance. The two things that have been problematic all year are the Mets’ defense and Terry Collins’ handling of his pitchers. With no tomorrow from here on, he can’t take out his starters at 80 pitches or so as he’s been doing. If a reliever is going well he shouldn’t be removed unless a pinch hitter is required which would only happen tonight in New York. And the Mets defense, which has more holes in it than a golf course has to tighten up for 3 games. Every infielder has at least one error except Flores. While Cespedes wasn’t charged with an error on Alcides Escobar’s inside the park home run to start game 1, writers and broadcasters covering the game were unanimous in saying he should have been. Teams have gotten out of this spot, but not often. The 1925 Pirates managed it against the Senators, as did the Pirates of 1979. Both the 1958 Yankees and 1968 Cardinals were in exactly the spot the Mets are in now-down 3 games to 1 with just one home game left and needing two wins in the other team’s park. The Yankees won game 5 in New York, then took 6 and 7 in Milwaukee from the Braves. The Tigers took game 5 in their den, then took 6 and 7 in St. Louis behind Mickey Lolich and his superb pitching in the final game. It can be done. The Mets’ task is to do it.
Paulo Orlando, the Royals’ rookie from Brazil is 30 today. He wants a World Series ring for his birthday to take home to the land of car racers such as Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves and Emerson Fittipaldi. Where Indy racing and soccer are kings, he wants to show the country that another sport is out there for young Brazilians. Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees is 27 today. The Bronx Bombers signed him in 2014 to be their ace, but for the last part of that year and all this year he has had a time bomb in his elbow-a partially torn ligament. Last month he had an elbow operation, but not The Big One, the Tommy John surgery all the writers and talk show hosts say he will surely need. The player with perhaps the funniest name in the game today is 36. Coco Crisp’s name sounds like a breakfast cereal, but he’s been with the Athletics these last five seasons and in 2009 was on the Royals. As funny as his nickname is, his given name is Covelli Loyce Crisp. On balance I’d stick with Coco. So would he. As Marvin Hagler did when he became Marvelous Marvin, Crisp took the trouble to go to court in 2013 and have his name legally changed to Coco. One of the most colorful pitchers of his day, Fernando Valenzuela turns 55 today. His screwball got him to the bigs and playing in Los Angeles he became more of a sensation than he could have in almost any other city. And lastly among our birthdays today, Dick Baney is 69. Baney might not be remembered at all, had Jim Bouton not immortalized Baney and all the other 1969 Seattle Pilots in the book “Ball Four.” From the Pilots he was next heard of with the 1973 and 1974 Reds, barely missing the 1973 World Series when the Reds were aced out by Tom Seaver and the Mets.