Following Royals' scouting report, first baseman races home to score tying run
By Paul Hagen
NEW YORK -- A good throw would have had him. A good throw would have nailed Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer at the plate for the final out in Game 5 of the World Series at Citi Field. A good throw would have sealed the Mets' win and sent the World Series back to Kansas City.
Hosmer knew what he was doing, though. What appeared to be recklessness was actually part of a premeditated plan. The Royals had talked about the situation, calculated the risks, weighed the odds ahead of time.
The result instantly became a part of Royals lore. Not just because Hosmer's epic, madcap dash to the plate tied the score in the top of the ninth inning Sunday night. Not just because Kansas City went on to win the 111th World Series, 7-2, in 12 innings for its first championship in 30 years. Not just because he was on base after driving in the Royals' first run of the game with a double.
All of that, yes, but also because it represented another redemption for one of Kansas City's most popular players. In the sixth, the normally steady defender's second error of the World Series helped give the Mets a crucial unearned run.
A similar situation had occurred in Game 1. A Hosmer error allowed New York to score the go-ahead run in the eighth. But Alex Gordon tied the score with a homer in the ninth and the first baseman made up for his lapse by delivering the game-winning sacrifice fly in the 14th.
At the start of the ninth Sunday, there was little to suggest that any of this drama was upcoming. Mets starter Matt Harvey was pitching a shutout. He had allowed three singles. Harvey had struck out nine. The Royals had gotten only one runner as far as second.
"We were just trying to get somebody on," Hosmer said. "Try and find any way to get somebody on base and make something happen. Seeing Harvey go back out there, you're just trying to find a way to get some stress to him. Just find any way you can to get some guys on base and cause some havoc on the bases.
"We knew we weren't going to go out quietly."
Lorenzo Cain started it with a walk and stole second. Hosmer doubled him home. With the tying run in scoring position, Mets manager Terry Collins went to closer Jeurys Familia. Hosmer advanced to third on a grounder to first, setting the stage for one of the most memorable plays of the Fall Classic.
Salvador Perez chopped a routine grounder to David Wright at third. Wright looked Hosmer back to the base, then threw across the diamond to Lucas Duda at first. As soon as he did, Hosmer broke for the plate.
"Where that ball was hit, it was in between third and short," said third-base coach Mike Jirschele. "It's Wright's ball to go get. So as soon as he started going for the ball, Hos started shuffling down the line. And as soon as Wright dropped his arm to throw it, he just took off for home. I didn't say anything. I just said, 'You're OK. You're OK.' And he shuffled and shuffled, and then he took off."
It was all part of the scouting report.
"We talked about it," Jirschele said. "We knew we were going to put pressure on Duda at first. And Wright doesn't have a cannon over there, either. So with that, once he threw it, you knew it was going to have to get to Duda first. And then he's still going to have to stretch and catch it and readjust and make a throw to home."
Again, a good throw would have had Hosmer. But the ball sailed high and wide. Hosmer slid across the plate. Bedlam erupted in the Royals' dugout, a marked contrast to the stunned silence from the home crowd.
Hosmer laughed when asked if he thought he was going to be thrown out at the plate.
"I wasn't sure, you know. When I took the first step toward home, I knew I couldn't outrun the baseball, that's for sure," he said. "I just knew we had to be aggressive at some point. If it hadn't worked out, I wouldn't be answering these questions right now. That's just the way we've been doing it all year.
"You realize that with Familia, hits are hard to come by. So you just realize at that point in time that you've got to take a chance. It's just the way we play the game. We're aggressive. We don't play the normal style of baseball according to some people. It's just the way we do it."
All that helped erase the memory of his misplay in the sixth. Royals starter Edinson Volquez had runners on first and second with nobody out. Volquez, who had already induced two double plays, was clearly looking for another ground ball. And he got it.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy rapped a sharp grounder -- the Statcast™ exit velocity off Murphy's bat was 99.75 mph -- to Hosmer, who couldn't field it cleanly. The ball rolled slowly toward second and instead of being one out away from being out of the inning, Volquez faced a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation.
Volquez was able to limit the damage. The Mets got only one run out of that. The way Harvey was pitching, though, it loomed large.
Then the Royals staged yet another comeback. And the turning point came on a daring baserunning play by a player who was making up for an earlier mistake. Art Stewart joined the expansion Royals in 1969. He's now 88 and could only shake his head.
"When [Hosmer] broke for the plate, I was thinking, 'Jeez, I wish it was [speedy Jerrod] Dyson," Stewart said with a laugh. "Wasn't that ninth inning a miracle? That was it. That was the ballgame."
Paul Hagen is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.