Mets' run cut short by miscues, missed opportunities
By Marty Noble
NEW YORK -- The Mets moved from the dugout steps to the dugout floor to the corridor and up the staircase that leads to their clubhouse and toward months without bats, balls and the kind of memories they had sought. They searched for a backspace key, something, anything that would enable them to undo their 7-2 loss in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday at Citi Field. They recognized the Royals' superiority, but they also understood they had been their own undoing.
No doubt, some will find peace on warm weather golf courses this winter, and all will wish World Series baseball allowed for mulligans. It doesn't. And who knows whether one more chance would be enough anyway.
The Mets had their chances. But they dropped the ball, figuratively and literally. They kicked it, missed it, bobbled it, booted it and threw it away. And in the end -- which spilled into Monday morning -- they had no means of stopping Kansas City as the Royals captured the World Series championship.
The Royals deserved to win the World Series mostly because of the three R's -- resolve, resilience and resourcefulness. And the Mets deserved to lose it. "Too many wrong mistakes," the late Mr. Berra would have said. And who would have argued that?
Those who monitor Mets matters will forever condemn that dreadful error by Daniel Murphy Saturday night and wrongly say the Game 4 loss would have been avoided had the second baseman achieved an out on the play. Not so. This World Series turned against the National League champions the moment Alcides Escobar turned on Matt Harvey's first fastball. Game 3 was a minor detour for the team that might have wanted it more, but certainly wanted it better.
As much as a five-game best-of-seven series can be a runaway, in the end, this one was. The scores don't strongly suggest that if only because the Mets occasionally demonstrated resilience and resolve of their own (though not much resourcefulness). But the on-field performance, the execution of the Royals -- in the field and in the batter's box -- was clearly superior to the Mets', not that either team played with great precision.
With contact swings, the Royals offset what were seen as the Mets' greatest strengths -- starting pitching and a strong closer in Jeurys Familia. With power pitching from their bullpen, the Royals blunted whatever the Mets attempted in the later innings. Though they outscored the Mets by merely eight runs, Kansas City crushed them.
The Mets went out with a whimper, amassing all of four hits in 12 innings to bring their final Series average to .193, and without Yoenis Cespedes, who was removed after batting in the sixth and fouling a pitch off his left knee.
The Mets scored once on the third pitch leadoff man Curtis Granderson saw -- and crushed -- from starter Edinson Volquez. David Wright managed a single -- after his two strikeouts and before a third -- in the sixth inning when the Mets scored an unearned run on a sacrifice fly by Lucas Duda. And left fielder Michael Conforto produced a leadoff single in the seventh and a two-out single in the 12th. That was it.
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After Wilmer Flores struck out to end the game, the vanquished Mets were forced to watch the Royals celebrate just to the third-base side of the Citi Field mound, where for the better part of 2 1/2 hours Harvey had brought hope of a return trip to Kansas City and a Game 6 on Tuesday night.
Harvey had been in charge for eight innings, allowing four singles, two walks and no runs. To that point, his performance was precisely what he envisioned for himself -- dominant power pitching. He struck out nine with swings and misses galore. Seven strikeouts in a 10-batter sequence that spanned the fourth, fifth and sixth innings seemed to dispel -- at least temporarily -- the Royals' "we make contact" claim.
But if Tom Seaver's start against the Cubs in 1969 was the Imperfect Game, Harvey's effort Sunday night was the Incomplete Game. The Dark Knight couldn't finish what he started. A leadoff walk to Lorenzo Cain, who three innings later delivered the most crushing blow, and a double by Eric Hosmer put an end to Harvey's dark night.
The fact that Harvey pitched at all after the eighth inning put Terry Collins on the hot seat. The manager allowed Harvey to convince him to start the ninth, a change of course Collins later regretted.
In the 1964 World Series, Cardinals manager Johnny Keane allowed Bob Gibson to pitch into the ninth inning of Game 7 against the Yankees. It was against his better judgment, Keane would say later. But he added, "I had a commitment to his heart." The Cardinals won. The 2015 Mets didn't.
"I told him ... that was enough," Collins said. "He just came over and said, 'I want this game. I want it bad. You've got to leave me in.' I said, 'Matt, you've got us exactly where we wanted.' He said, 'I want this game in the worst way.' So obviously I let my heart get in the way of my gut. I love my players, I trust them. And so I said, 'Go get 'em' ... and it didn't work. My fault."
No K.C. masterpiece for Harvey. The Royals tied the score at 2 without so much as a base hit against Familia.
The battle of the bullpens that ensued was not one the Mets could handle. Thirteen of the Royals' 27 runs in the five games were charged to the bullpen. The Mets' relievers produced an 0-3 record. The Royals finished their postseason run with eight come-from-behind victories, four of which came against the Mets. They became the first World Series teams to win three games in which they trailed in the eighth inning or later.
The evening became ugly for the Mets in the 12th, and not merely because of the five runs. Another error by Murphy prompted thoughts of Game 4 and a renewed sense that the Mets could've done better. They certainly could have.
But the Mets weren't supposed to be in the postseason, no matter their claims from last winter and spring. They weren't supposed to win the division, or beat the Dodgers, or sweep the Cubs or compete with the Royals.
"We couldn't get it done," Collins said. "We're hoping to get another chance."
But that will have to come next year. No mulligans in this game.
Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.