Concluding the (mostly) complete multimedia story of your 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals, here's the index for all parts:
- Prologue: Pre-2014
- Part 1: 2014 Regular Season
- Part 2: 2014 Playoffs: AL Rounds
- Part 3: 2014 World Series
- Part 4: 2015 Regular Season I
- Part 5: 2015 Regular Season II
- Part 6: 2015 Regular Season III
- Part 7: 2015 ALDS
- Part 8: 2015 ALCS
- Part 9: 2015 World Series
The 2015 World Series
The Royals made it back to the World Series without even surrendering their title as AL champs. And it means that if they win the World Series this year, it will change the way I perceive last year’s team as well. The 2014 Royals aren’t a self-contained story anymore. They now feel like only the opening chapter of an even greater story, the Preamble to the 2014-2015 Royals... The 2015 Royals aren’t just playing for themselves; they’re playing for the 2014 Royals too. If they win, they’ll forever alter the way they are perceived, and they’ll forever alter the way last year’s team is perceived too.
The New York Mets
The Mets had an up and down first half: They had an 11 game winning streak in April and a 7 game losing streak in June. On July 2nd, after getting swept by the Cubs, they found themselves at 40-40. In the first half, their offense only scored 3.48 runs per game. But that surged to 5.11 in the second half on the backs of regression and a number of shrewd moves round the deadline.
FIrst, they traded for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson to drag some significant holes in the lineup much closer to league average. Then, they promoted one of their top prospects, Michael Conforto. Next, they added Oakland closer Tyler Clippard to an already strong bullpen. And finally, the big move, on the trade deadline, they acquired Yoenis Cespedes for pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. And that was after a trade for Carlos Gomez fell through. On the afternoon of the trade deadline, they were 52-50 and 3 games behind the NL East leading Washington.
That evening, Wilmer Flores, just two days after an emotional scene when he thought he had been traded in the Gomez deal, hit a dramatic walk-off home run to start a huge series with the Nationals. The Nationals would fall apart, culminating in this, while the Mets would go 38-22 the rest of the way, blowing by them to win the division by 7 games. The Mets were not without their controversy, though, as the whole Matt Harvey innings limit fiasco dominated their September. They comfortably won the division but went 1-5 the last week of the season, one of those losses being Max Scherzer's 2nd no-hitter of the season.
The Mets starting pitching was dominant, led by Matt "The Dark Knight" Harvey, Noah "Thor" Syndergaard, and Jacob "no superhero nickname" deGrom. All three throw in the high 90s and Syndergaard can top 100. Bartolo Colon also ate 194 IP while closer Jeurys Familia tied a Mets franchise record with 43 saves (speaking of teams backing into good bullpen fortune, Familia only had the closer job after Jenrry Mejia was suspended for PEDs in April). In the playoffs, they bested their season average with a 2.81 team ERA, which was an even better 2.48 if you take out Erik Goeddel's 0 IP 3 R mop-up outing in the NLDS.
In their 2015 NLDS series against the Dodgers, deGrom beat Clayton Kershaw 3-1 in game 1 while Zack Greinke beat Syndergaard in game 2. However, that game is most remembered for the controversial slide from Chase Utley which broke the leg of Mets SS Ruben Tejada. In that inning, the Dodgers scored 4 to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 win. The Mets retaliated with their bats, winning 13-7 in game 3 at Citi Field, while Kershaw evened the series with a 3-1 win over Steven Matz in game 4. In the 5th and deciding game, the Mets scored 1st but were down 2-1 after 1. However, they picked up runs in the 4th (Murphy stealing 3rd after no one covered it on a walk) and 6th of of Greinke. Syndergaard and Familia finished off the game and the LA season.
In the 2015 NLCS, the Mets swept the Cubs, with their power pitching limiting the Cubs young sluggers to 4 HR and 8 runs after they had 10 and 20 in the 4 game NLDS against the Cardinals. Speaking of home runs, Daniel Murphy won the NLCS MVP, hitting a home run in each of the 4 games, continuing a streak of 6 consecutive postseason games with a HR dating back to game 4 of the NLDS. His postseason line coming into the World Series was .421/.436/1.026 with 16 hits and 7 home runs in only 38 AB.
Coincidentally, the World Series started on October 27th, the same date the 1985 Royals and 1986 Mets won their World Series, the last for each franchise. Here are links to the World Series previews for Royals Review and Amazin Avenue. A number of previews basically broke it down to the Mets starting pitching versus the Royals bullpen ("Dangerous when behind, the Royals are deadly when they're ahead." -Steve Gardner), defense, and speed. There was also a lot of chatter about how the Royals contact hitting made them ideally suited to beat the Mets power pitching. In retrospect, those weren't the far off.
World Series Game 1
Just to get this out of the way, "Instant classic" is the cliche that applies here. MLB named it the 4th best World Series game 1 of all time, Jonah Keri led off his article calling it "one of the longest, weirdest, most scintillating games in World Series history", and Jayson Stark declared it "a World Series Game 1 unlike any of the 110 Series openers that came before it". The story lines on and off the field were legion.
It began in sadness. When Kansas City’s Edinson Volquez threw the first pitch, the story had already broken that his father had died... It was gut-wrenching to watch Volquez pitch; he apparently did not know. His family had wanted to keep the news of Daniel’s death from him until he finished pitching.They obviously wanted him to be free to pitch the most important baseball game of his life with clear mind and a full heart.
Edinson Voquez started out the World Series with a 1-2-3 top of the first, including a strikeout of the aforementioned red hot Daniel Murphy.
Before we get to the first Royals pitch of the 2015 World Series, a flashback to 2011, Ned Yost, and Alcides Escobar. After a game that dropped the Royals to 10 under .500 in mid June 2011, Ned Yost was asked why he did not pinch hit for his young, struggling (.209/.241/.241 - not a misprint) SS in the 9th. His response:
"Yeah, not right now. I'm not gonna do it. I don't care what anybody says. I'm not gonna do it. This is a kid that I think is gonna hit one day. I want him having as many at-bats as he can get, because there's gonna come a time when we're in line to win a championship and I want him to be able to handle himself in those situations."
Back to that first pitch, the broadcast from the Fox team and gif describe what happened:
"If you've been watching the Royals like we have, be ready. He's swinging"
"It is Escobar and he swings and hits it into left center. Back at the track and it is... dropped! Cespedes couldn't make the catch! How about that effort? Digging around third, here comes Escobar! 1 to 0 Kansas City! An inside-the-park home run for Alcides Escobar to start the World Series."
It was the first inside-the-park home run in the World Series since 1929 and the Royals were off and running with a combination of their speed and the Mets (lack of) defense.
Ned Yost: "Checkmate"— Dan Lucero (@danluceroshow) November 2, 2015
Me: "How? You have two pieces left on the board and one is the car from Monopoly... oh. Well. I'll be damned."
In the 2nd and 3rd, each team had a 1-2-3 inning and one with 2 runners on and 1 out but nothing came of either. In the 4th, with runners at 1st and 3rd and 1 out, the Mets tied the game on a Travis d'Arnaud smash down the 3rd base line. Mike Moustakas stopped it but could not make a play. Volquez escaped further damage.
In the bottom of the 4th, Fox lost power. First, the national audience lost the television feed. Then the game was delayed because the dugouts could not get replays. Eventually, Fox switched over to MLB's international feed and play resumed.
The Mets took the lead in the 5th on a Curtis Granderson home run and extended it in the 6th off a tiring Volquez with a single, single, and sacrifice fly. Volquez's night ended and then he found out about his father.
The Royals evened it up in the bottom of the 6th. Ben Zobrist led off with a double, a Lorenzo Cain single got him to 3rd, and an Eric Hosmer sacrifice fly scored him. Cain stole 2nd (free Taco Bell) and tied the game on a 2 out Moustakas single. Also notable about this inning: two franchise records from Kansas City legend George Brett. Hosmer's sacrifice fly gave him 24 postseason RBIs, surpassing Brett's career tally. Zobrist's 7th extra base hit tied Brett's 1980 total for most in a single postseason. Incidentally, George threw out the first pitch before the game.
The teams traded scoreless 7ths and Kelvin Herrera got two easy outs to start the 8th. But then Juan Lagares singled and stole second. Flores hit a ground ball at Hosmer and, in a play reminiscent of 1986 Bill Buckner, he whiffed on a backhanded scoop and it went into right field to give the Mets a 4-3 lead.
Wilmer Flores: 1st batter to put team ahead by reaching on error in 8th inning or later of World Series game, since Mookie Wilson, 1986— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 28, 2015
Zobrist started a promising home half of the 8th with another leadoff double (passing Brett's extra base hit mark). But Cain, after a pair of inexplicable bunt attempts, struck out. Hosmer, looking for redemption, struck out on a pitch near eye level. After a wild pitch and a walk to Kendrys Morales, the Royals had runners at 1st and 3rd so Terry Collins brought in his closer. So far in the playoffs, Familia had gone 9.2 scoreless innings. Since the start of August, he was 16 for 16 in save opportunities with a 1.30 ERA and 36 Ks in 27.2 IP. He induced a weak Mike Moustakas grounder to shortstop to end the inning.
Luke Hochevar pitched a scoreless 9th and the fate of the game rested in the hands of Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, and Paulo Orlando. A Royals loss in game 1 would negate their home field advantage. More importantly, losing the game in the fashion they did could prove emotionally crushing.
Two of Familia's three pitches to Perez were quick pitches, the last inducing a weak ground out. With the count 1-1 to Gordon, Jeurys went back to the quick pitch.
"Gordon in the air to center... back at the wall... THIS GAME IS TIED!"
'This place is pulsating at the moment"
If there's ever an Alex Gordon statue erected outside a Royals stadium, it will be of this moment, one of the most important plays in Royals history (2nd by WPA). As Gordon rounded first base, he lifted a finger in the air. Christian Colon ran over and hugged Hosmer, who is as pumped as anyone in the ballpark. After Gordon returned to the dugout, he and Hosmer embrace, a symbolic linking of the Royals futile past and glorious present.
"I had no words. All I could tell him was, 'I just want to hug you right now.' That's why he's my hero. That's why he's a lot of people's hero right now in Kansas City."
Familia recovered to retire Orlando and Escobar but the damage had been done. In the top of the 10th, Wade Davis struck out the side. In the bottom of the 10th, Jon Niese got the Royals 1-2-3. Ryan Madson put two runners on but struck out David Wright to end the top of the 11th. Jarrod Dyson had a loud out and Salvy reached on an infield hit that bounced off 3rd base but the Royals also failed to score.
Adding one final twist to the evening was Young’s own dose of tragedy this year. Just last month, his own father died; the next day, he threw five shutout innings. Young was the only player told about the death of Volquez’s father before the game, because Young stood to be the emergency replacement starter if Volquez found out about his dad’s death and needed to be excused from pitching.
In the 12th, the game was turned over to starters-turned-long-relievers, Chris Young for the Royals and Bartolo Colon for the Mets. Young struck out the side against the Mets, summoning up velocity he hadn't hit since 2009. Colon loaded the bases with 2 outs but Dyson flew out to Lagares. Each team managed a runner in the 13th but scored no runs. Young worked a perfect top of the 14th and tied Walter Johnson and Tug McGraw(!!) for most extra inning Ks in a World Series game.
Leading off the bottom of the 14th, Escobar grounded one sharply to third, Wright bobbled it, and threw high. The Royals had a baserunner courtesy of the Mets defense. Zobrist singled past Lucas Duda, who was holding Escobar. Cain was intentionally walked to load the bases and bring up Hosmer.
Hosmer claimed his redemption, hitting a long sacrifice fly to right, scoring Escobar and ending the longest Game 1 in World Series history. The 14 inning game, which started at 7:09 Tuesday night, went 5:09 and fans in both cities didn't see the game end until early Wednesday morning local time.
The longest Game 1 of any World Series in history had just ended. The Royals had just come from at least two runs behind to win for the fifth time in this postseason. And they'd found a way to win one more October classic. Somehow. So stay tuned. Who knows what they might have in store next?
World Series Game 2
Much like the regular season, Johnny Cueto had been equal parts mediocre, brilliant, and awful in October. The Royals needed his best for the first World Series game of his career. Opposing Cueto was deGrom, who had been the best Mets starter this postseason, posting a 1.80 ERA and 27K in 20 IP.
Centuries from now, historians will look at baseball-reference.com’s page on the 2015 Royals and wonder what all the fuss was about Johnny Cueto, who had a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts, allowed 101 hits in 81 innings, and with whom the Royals were 4-9 when he started the game for them during the regular season.
And then they will turn to the postseason page, and realize that the Royals won three of his four postseason starts, including a double elimination Game 5 of the ALDS in which he allowed two baserunners (and two runs) in eight innings, as well as a World Series start in which he threw a two-hit complete game while allowing just one run, the first complete game by an AL pitcher in the World Series since, if you can believe it, Jack Morris’ 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
By game score, these are the best starts in Royals’ postseason history:
Rk Pitcher Game GS 1 Johnny Cueto 2015 WS 2 80 2 Bret Saberhagen 1985 WS 7 79 3 Johnny Cueto 2015 ALDS 5 78 4 Bret Saberhagen 1985 WS 3 78
World Series Game 3
By the start of this game, Escobar swinging at the first pitch had become a "thing". Below are the results of the pitches from his leadoff at bats for each game: only 12 pitches in 8 games.
|Game||Eskie Leadoff AB|
The Mets game 3 starter, had taken note.
"It's something else being able to watch Escobar walk up there and swing at the first pitch almost every single game. I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I'll be able to break out tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to it."
So, this happened.
Needless to say, the Royals dugout wasn't all that pleased. In particular, Moustakas was chirping a lot, if by "chirping" you mean "yelling many loud profanities". Escobar got up but struck out three pitches later. The Royals, however, did not seem to be intimidated. Zobrist worked a full count before knocking a double off the center field wall. The Mets defense made an appearance two batters later. With runners on the corners, Hosmer hit a grounder to Duda at first. He threw to second but then got tangled up with Syndergaard and the Mets couldn't complete the double play. Zobrist scored and it was 1-0 Royals.
While a headhunting thug and hothead was on the mound for one team, Yordano Ventura toed the rubber for the Royals. Unfortunately, he, too, had a problem with high pitches on the evening. After Granderson led off with a single, the Mets captain, Wright, took back the lead with a 392 foot home run to left.
The Royals boarding the singles train in the top of the 2nd. Perez and Gordon started with base hits. Rios followed with an RBI that scored Perez and got Gordon to 3rd. However, after the initial safe call on the field, the replay showed that Wright applied the tag to Gordon before he touched the bag. After Ventura sacrificed Rios to 3rd, he scored on the next pitch as it scooted under the catcher's glove. Escobar singled and stole second. With Niese warming in the bullpen and a 2nd inning pitch count close to 40, the Mets young flamethrower was in danger of being chased early. Zobrist got an offspeed pitch over the heart of the plate but he didn't get all of it, lofting a lazy fly ball to Cespedes. Syndergaard had escaped.
In the bottom of the 3rd, Syndergaard led off with a sharp single, the first hit by a Mets pitcher in the postseason. Granderson followed with a quick drive down the right field line that found the first row in the right field stands at Citi Field. Mets back up 4-3. They added another in the 4th with a Duda single, d'Arnaud double, and Conforto infield single. On a grounder between 1st and 2nd, Ventura ran home instead of 1st and Hosmer could not get back to the bag in time. One batter later, Ventura's night was over with the Royals down 5-3 in the 4th.
In the top of the 5th, Raul Mondesi became the first player in history to make his MLB debut in the World Series. He struck out as Syndergaard had gotten into a groove. After Escobar's single back in the 2nd, he set down 12 straight.
With 2 outs in the 6th, "Thor" loaded the bases, giving up a single and two walks while topping 100 pitches on the night. However, Rios hit a grounder back up the middle off the end of his bat and Flores ended the scoring threat. That at bat basically ended the Royals evening: a completely ineffective Franklin Morales and only slightly more effect Herrera yielded 4 runs as the Mets sent all 9 batters to the plate. The big hit was a 2-run single by Wright, giving him 4 RBIs on the night. After that, little else happened. Ryan Madson and Kris Medlen pitched scoreless 7th and 8th innings while Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard, and Familia finished off the Royals with perfect 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. The game was close for the first half but the Mets won 9-3, going away.
Last year, the Royals came into the fourth game of the World Series with a 2-1 series edge. They jumped out to a 4-1 lead. They were just five innings away from all but finishing San Francisco. That's when the bullpen imploded, the bats went cold, and Ned Yost made some truly head-scratching moves. While that debacle tied the series and today's loss only cut the Mets' deficit to 2-1, this Friday night in October felt all too similar.
The Mets had gotten back into the World Series but all anyone wanted to talk about was "the pitch".
"It's wrong," Escobar said.
"It was weak," Alex Rios chimed in.
"Very weak," added Eric Hosmer. "I thought it was unprofessional."
Rob Manfred, the new baseball commissioner, said Syndergaard will not be disciplined: "His comments indicated that he was throwing a pitch for a competitive purpose, not with an intention to hit anyone," he said. "Good, hard baseball. It really does not concern me.
"My intent on that pitch was to make them uncomfortable, and I feel like I did just that. I think in every postseason game that Escobar has played in, he's swung at the first-pitch fastball. I didn't think he would want to swing at that one. I mean, I certainly wasn't trying to hit the guy, that's for sure. I just didn't want him getting too comfortable. If they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away. I've got no problem with that."
World Series Game 4
I've been fantasizing about seeing some bad Mets defense in this series (and having it sink them). Flores is a genuinely bad defensive SS. Murphy is a bad defensive 2B. Wright might be a bad defensive 3B (at this point in his career). Cespedes is a bad defensive CF (even when healthy, and he’s not, with that bum shoulder).
-Scott McKinney (RR Series Preview)
Sports Illustrated's World Series preview described Daniel Murphy as "Sub-par in the field and prone to mental mistakes, Murphy’s value has always come from his above-average work at the plate. After his 7 home runs in the first two rounds and NLCS MVP, his World Series triple slash would end up being .150/.320/.150 with no home runs. But he left an indelible mark on this series in another way this Halloween night. The starting pitching matchup wasn't as sexy as the other games with Royals soft tossing sometimes-long-relief SP Chris Young against Mets 4th starter, and not-good-enough-to-be-mentioned-in-the-same-breath-as-other-Mets-starters Steven Matz.
The game was scoreless through 2 and a half with the only real notable play a batter's interference in the first inning where Zobrist fell into the catcher on an Escobar steal and both were declared out. Leading off the third, Conforto crushed an upper deck home run. The Mets scored another manufactured run on a single, wild pitch, bunt, and sacrifice fly. Rios looked like he forgot how many outs there were when he caught the ball and Flores looked like he might have left the bag early, but he was ruled safe and the Mets had a 2-0 lead.
In the middle innings, the teams traded runs. Top 5, a Perez double and Gordon single, as Denny Matthews put it, "chopped [the lead] in half". In the bottom of the 5th, again, Conforto led off an inning with a blast the park would not hold. The next half inning, a Zobrist leadoff double and Cain single pulled the Royals back to within 1. The teams settled into the expected bullpen game. Young went 4 with Duffy, Hochevar, and Madson all getting a frame. The Mets also required 4 pitchers to get through 7. Matz threw 5, Niese and Colon split the 6th, and Reed threw the 7th. Clippard got the call to start the 8th with the Mets still up 3-2. The Royals win expectancy was 24%.
But it’s not simply that the Royals wouldn’t have won Game 1 of the World Series without Gordon’s home run. It’s that his home run completely changed the course of the rest of the series as well. The Royals won Game 2 handily, 7-1, but the Mets won Game 3 handily, 9-3. But for some strange reason, Mets manager Terry Collins decided to go to Familia to pitch the 9th in Game 3, despite his team leading by six runs, and despite the fact that Game 3 is the only game in the Series in which you’re scheduled to play the next two days as well... If Familia pitched a meaningless inning in Game 3 of the World Series because he gave up a home run to Gordon in Game 1 – then think of the repercussions: Collins didn’t go to Familia to start the 8th inning in Game 4, when the Mets were leading by just one run.
Clippard induced an Escobar groundout to start the inning (WE 19%) but then issued back-to-back walks to Zobrist and Cain. His night was over and Familia summoned to close out the game. On the second pitch, Hosmer hit a slow roller to Murphy. What should have been the harmless second out of the inning instead rolled under his glove and on into right field. Zobrist scored, tying the game.
"Wow. You talk about giving a game away. Two walks and an error. And thank you very much. And have the Mets just handed the Royals the World Series? Maybe.
The 2015 Royals style of "put it on the ground and run like hell" against the Mets defense paid off yet again. Cain went to 3rd on the error and scored on the next pitch, a Moustakas single past a diving Murphy. Perez lined a single to right center and the Royals went up 5-3.
For the 3rd time in the 2016 postseason, Yost called on Davis for more than 3 outs. The Mets went quietly in the bottom of the 8th while the Royals did the same in the top of the 9th, including a somewhat comical strikeout by Wade. In the bottom of the 9th, with 1 out, Murphy, looking to atone, singled. Cespedes followed with another single, putting the tying runs on base. Duda strode to the plate as the winning run. On an 0-1 pitch, he hit a soft liner to Moustakas. Moose threw over to Hosmer as Cespedes had wandered off 1st. The double play ended the game and, as Denny concluded: "The Royals have a choke hold on the World Series."
The Royals have outscored the Mets 14-2 from the sixth inning on this series. In the ALCS? They outscored the Blue Jays 22-5. In the ALDS? They outscored the Astros 14-6. Do you realize how exciting it must be to cheer for a team that does that? It is an eternal highlight video every night.
World Series Game 5
As the Mets were trying to become only the 6th team in MLB history to come back from 3-1 down and win a World Series, this is a reminder that the last team to do it was the 1985 Kansas City Royals. You're welcome.
Volquez, pitching five days after his father's death, said "I want to pitch. I want to make people proud." He wrote his father's initials inside his cap and on the back of the mound. He gave up 2 runs in 6 innings, mixing 2 hits and 5 walks with 5 strikeouts and a pair of double plays.
Curtis Granderson hit his third home run of the series, leading off the bottom of the 1st. He also scored an unearned run in the 6th. In that inning, the Mets loaded the bases on a walk, single, and Hosmer error. With the Royals staring at an RE of 2.282 for that situation, Cespedes fouled a ball off his knee. He remained in the game and weakly popped out. A Duda sacrifice fly was the only damage done. Herrera faced the minimum in the 7th and 8th.
But, really, for as long as he was in the game, Matt Harvey was the story. He allowed base runners for the first 3 innings but worked around them. In the 4th and 5th, all 6 Royals outs were by strikeout. At the end of 8, he was at 102 pitches of shutout ball and in line for a 2-0 win. The Royals win expectancy sat at 4.8%.
In between the 8th and 9th, Fox cameras captured some wonderful baseball drama.
"[Mets Pitching Coach Dan] Warthen delivered the news to Harvey. It went something like this: 'Great game, Fama has the ninth.' ... [Harvey] pleaded first with Warthen. 'No way. No way,' he repeatedly said to his pitching coach. He knew his efforts were futile and that Warthen was powerless to make a change so he moved on to the decision maker, Terry Collins. 'No way. No way,' Harvey continued with his manager. Collins said something back. 'I'm (bleeping) going back out there,' Harvey would say emphatically.
Harvey sprinted out to the mound to deafening cheers of "We want Harvey". It would be the last time all season anyone would beg to face the Royals.
"I let my heart get in the way of my gut. I love my players. And I trust them."
Harvey battled Cain for 7 pitches before giving up a leadoff walk, something that surely warmed Denny Matthews's heart. On the next pitch, Harvey's penultimate, Cain stole second. His final pitch was crushed by Hosmer. Its first bounce was off the outfield grass and its second off the outfield wall, away from Conforto. Cain motored home to cut the lead in half. Collins bolted out of the dugout and motioned for Familia. Harvey pounded his glove before sheepishly handing over the ball.
"[Perez] tapped a grounder toward third baseman David Wright. Wright looked at Hosmer before he threw, but Hosmer did not return to the bag. He prepared to sprint home. He knew Wright lacked superior arm strength and he knew the first baseman, Lucas Duda, is a mediocre fielder.
'Bless his heart, Duda,' first-base coach Rusty Kuntz said. 'He’s a good bat.'
The Kansas City scouting report on Duda mentioned his sidearm throwing motion. His volleys often tail away from the intended target. And so catcher Travis d’Arnaud reached in vain as the ball skittered away. Hosmer slid across the plate to tie the game. Joy coursed through the Royals dugout"
The Royals advance scouting department, whose reputation had reached "near mythological" status, found another advantage to exploit. Watching the video of "Hosmer's mad dash", he had no business scoring. First, he doesn't go that far down the line, despite no one covering third as Wright ran in front of Flores to field the grounder. But Wright doesn't get much on the throw, lofting it over to 1st. Still, Duda gets the ball, realizes the runner is going home, and fires it to the plate all before Hosmer is more than halfway. The ball arrives near d'Arnaud before Hosmer reaches the dirt circle around home, before Hosmer started his slide. If the ball is anywhere close, the tag is quickly applied and Hosmer is almost certainly out. But none of those things happened and the World Series was tied.
As Buck declared on the broadcast "They keep finding ways". It was Familia's 3rd blown save in the series, more than he had the entire second half of the season. And, like the night before, he had induced the needed ground balls, only to have his infield defense let him down. There were even faint echoes to 2014, only the ill-advised dash home from third actually happened and it inexplicably worked. In that moment, few were the Royals fans who did not think the World Series was theirs.
With Herrera only at 22 pitches, Yost went to him for a 3rd inning. 11 pitches later, the game was headed to extra innings. Familia and Niese split the 10th and 11th for New York while Hochevar threw two scoreless for Kansas City.
Christian Colon. A terrific contact hitter. With a man on third and one out. In the 12th inning. This feels familiar.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) November 2, 2015
Christian Colon, the 4th overall pick in 2010, 3 picks before Harvey, is widely regarded as a bust. However, in his only official postseason AB, in the 12th inning of the 2014 Wild Card game, he singled in the tying run. He then stole second and was the runner who scored on Salvy's redemptive hit to end the game. With the pitcher's spot coming up, he was called upon to pinch hit in the 12th of Game 5 of the World Series. He singled to left, giving the Royals their final lead. In short, his two postseason ABs book-ended this magical playoff run.
Christian Colon is 3rd pinch-hitter to drive in game-winning run in #WorldSeries clincher, joining Rusty Kuntz in 1984 & Gene Larkin in 1991— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) November 2, 2015
The camera captured a great exchange between a fired up coach and player at 1st as they high fived: "Gimme some! Atta boy!" "Let's go!" "Hell yeah!" Later in the inning, the broadcast showed Kuntz talking to Zobrist about Colon in the 2014 Wild Card Game.
With that, the Mets final unraveling began. Murphy completely botched another easy grounder to put two runners on. Escobar doubled down the left field line to plate Colon for insurance. Zobrist was intentionally walked to load the bases and Bartolo Colon relieved Reed.
"Cain swings. Line drive left center field. This is going to go all the way to the wall"
-Ryan Lefebvre (Royals broadcast)
"It's just amazing to watch the snowball go down the hill and get bigger and bigger. Once this team gets rolling, it just keeps on going"
-Tom Verducci (national broadcast)
Cain effectively ended the game and the coronation was on. The Mets needed 5 to tie against Davis, who had only given up 7 ER the entire season. He struck out Duda swinging. He struck out d'Arnaud swinging. He got 2 strikes on Conforto but gave up a harmless single (it did give us video of Cueto with half a leg over the dugout railing, ready to run onto the field and celebrate, though). The next batter, Wilmer Flores, will forever be the trivia answer for a generation of Royals fans: "Who did Wade Davis strike out to end the 2015 World Series?"
After the called strike three, Butera ran around a stunned Flores to the mound. Davis threw his glove into the air. And they embraced. The team met at the center of the diamond in a scrum. A happy, joyful, jumping, cheering scrum. Gordon chewed his gum and pointed skyward before sprinting in. Cain threw his arms in the air and bellowed loudly. Orlando waived a Brazilian flag. Zobrist and Hosmer both threw their gloves in the air and embraced. Colon cried tears of joy. Ned's smile beamed from ear to ear. And then he ran straight into his Salvy Splash. High fives and hand shakes were exchanged, championship hats and shirts passed out.
Commission Rob Manfred, in his first World Series, handed the Commissioner's Trophy to David Glass. He then handed the MVP trophy to Salvator [sic] Perez. With all due respect to Perez, he didn't even have that gaudy of statistics in the World Series. No one on the team did. And I guess that was the point: It felt more like a team award given to one of the team leaders.
The Royals were also crowned king of the comebacks as they set an all-time record, coming from behind in eight of the eleven wins.
At some point in 2015 postseason games, KC had win probabilities of:— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 2, 2015
KC won all 7 of those games. (via fangraphs)
Kansas City celebrated late into the night. As did Twitter. The World Series drew the highest ratings in 6 years and Game 5 drew a 60.0/80 (FYI: 58.3/83 for 2014 Game 7) in Kansas City. That means 80% of all televisions in Kansas City were on and 60% of them were watching the Royals!
When things begin to overwhelm him, Moore thinks about the Plaza. It grounds him. It inspires him. It reminds him why he came to Kansas City.
"The Plaza?" you ask. "Why?"
"Haven’t you figured it out?" he asks back. He shrugs. "On my first day in town, my wife and I were driving through the Plaza. There were people walking everywhere. Kids. Adults. It was great.
"And I turned to Marianne, and I said, This is where we’re going to have the parade. "
While it may not have been at the Plaza, Kansas City celebrated its first Championship parade since 1985. It started in the Power & Light District, wound through the Government District, around the Sprint Center, and then up Grand Blvd, ending at Union Station.
For parade day, productivity in Kansas City ground to a halt:
Officials estimated 800,000 people showed up, and maybe that’s high. Nobody can really know. But whatever the number, it was a significant chunk of the 2 million people in the metro area. Schools closed. Medical offices told all non-essential personnel to take a day. Small businesses closed, except the ones positioned to make a fortune off the day, like bars and restaurants.
A massive crowd descended on downtown:
— The Kansas City Star (@KCStar) November 3, 2015
And those at Union Station saw speeches by all of the major players (including the most memorable by Johnny Gomes) and management.
— The Kansas City Star (@KCStar) November 4, 2015
Many Kansas City-based scribes took their turn at defining the legacy of the 2015 Royals.
Rany Jazayerli's "Royals remarkable run rewards fans beyond belief":
Of all the amazing things I'll remember the 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals for, the most amazing is this: They turned the story of the 2014 Royals into a prologue.
Also, if you have a few
hours days, he retired his blog with a countdown of the top 200 moments of the 2014-2015 season. It's as comprehensive a guide to the playoff run as will probably ever be written.
The Royals reminded Kansas City that it’s a baseball town, and a damn fine one at that. Nine years it took, nine years of tinkering and toying and finding the closest thing to a perfect team Kansas City ever has seen. It was a team worth celebrating, a team worth loving, a team worth placing atop the mantel alongside 1985.
Sam Mellinger's "Even by championship standards, this Royals team is special":
They were once baseball’s most easily dismissed franchise, an afterthought if they were a thought at all. Look at them now. Baseball’s best story, baseball’s only story, the group that spent nearly a full decade building for this one moment and then a postseason making sure they would never be forgotten.
Joe Posnanski's "Long May They Reign":
This will be the last time (probably) to write about a Royals outfielder named Kerry Robinson, who climbed the center-field wall for a long fly ball and found himself sheepishly hanging on that wall when the ball landed 10 feet in front of him and bounced off the warning track and over his head. This will be the last time (probably) to write about the Royals losing a game in Cleveland because a baseball hit a flock of seagulls (not the band). This will be the last time (probably) to write about outfielders Chip Ambres and Terrence Long settling under a fly ball, looking contentedly at each other and then jogging happily back to the dugout … only to have the ball plop behind them in the outfield grass, forgotten.
As an aside, one the greatest creative tragedies of all this is that Joe Posnanski is no longer covering the Royals for the Kansas City Star on a regular basis. Considering the literal and digital ink he spilled about Zack (SI), Trey (how do you wash a unicorn), or his favorite topic, Buck O'Neill (The Soul of Baseball?), it would have been wonderful for him to take all of his writing through the lean years of this team and turn it into writing about their new glory days. Same with others, such as Rob Neyer.
Somehow it all worked out.
- 30 years in the making: The Process(TM), in its inconsistent and inefficient fits and starts.
- The inexplicable moves in the 2014 Wild Card game that somehow worked out
- The crazy run through last postseason that came up 90 feet short
- The blazing start and the takeover of the All-Star Game
- The midseason trades for Cueto and Zobrist
- The Miracle at Minute Maid Park
- Gordon's monument moment
- Hosmer's mad dash
The dream was delayed a year by 90 feet of heartbreak. So many teams and fans never have this chance. A happy fairy tale ending, the likes of which rarely happens in this world. Not only to have it happen but to happen the way it did. The Kansas City Royals won the 2015 World Series and fans will never forget it.