Last year, the Kansas City Royals were one base hit away from winning their first World Series championship since 1985. Catcher Salvador Perez popped the pitch up and San Francisco 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval caught it, giving the Giants the 2014 World Series in an exhilarating seven-game matchup. That game only made the Royals stronger.
Kansas City came into the year with the mission of winning the World Series. Many thought they’d miss the playoffs because of their lack of power and starting pitching. Instead, the Royals caught fire early, kept it up, and finished with the most wins in the American League. Yet Kansas City seemed like just a roadblock for the young Houston Astros, who many thought were the 2015 version of the 2014 Royals. Most favored the stacked Blue Jays in the ALCS. And in the World Series, the red-hot New York Mets and their stellar rotation looked like a formidable opponent for Kansas City.
In every matchup, Kansas City proved to be on a level of its own. The Royals often found themselves in holes deep into games, but they were the kings of late game heroics. Kansas City used an unbeatable bullpen and clutch hitting to down the Astros and Blue Jays in the American League playoffs, and when they faced the Mets in the World Series, nothing changed. The 2015 Kansas City Royals are now the World Series champions.
To say it was a memorable series would be an understatement. In an October that featured many unbelievable moments, from Joey Bautista’s bat flip to Daniel Murphy’s homer streak, the World Series was a perfect climax. Though the Royals took it in only five games, those were five nail-biting contests that featured a ton of late inning drama.
The tone was set in Game 1 of the World Series in Kansas City. ALCS MVP Alcides Escobar started it off with an inside-the-park home run in the first inning, aided by a fielding error by New York outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets scored in the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings to build a 3-1 lead, but Kansas City scored twice in the 6th to tie it up. New York pulled ahead again in the eighth, but with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Alex Gordon hit a homer to center to send the game into extra innings. Five scoreless innings later, Eric Hosmer knocked a ball to the outfield and Escobar tied up and scored, giving the Royals a pivotal Game 1 victory.
Teams that win the opening game of the World Series have won the series over 60% of the time and only 12 teams have rallied from 2-0 deficits, so Game 2 was a must-win for the Mets. Kansas City starter Johnny Cueto, who struggled most of the season after being acquired in a July trade, had other plans. Cueto finally produced a gem in the playoffs, allowing only two hits in a complete game shutout as the Royals won, 7-1.
Game 3, the first game in Citi Field in New York, started off on a first pitch that symbolized the tension between the two teams. New York rookie Noah Syndergaard purposely threw the first pitch at Escobar’s head to intimidate him, though with no malicious intent. The game went back and forth, but the Mets pulled away in the 6th inning with four runs. The 9-3 New York victory cut the series deficit to 2-1.
The drama returned on Halloween in Game 4. New York pitcher Steven Matz had a strong start and two home runs by rookie Michael Conforto gave the Mets a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning. The Mets still held the lead in the eighth inning, but what happened then spooked all of the Mets fans. Postseason hero Daniel Murphy made erred on two straight plays and the Royals took advantage, scoring three in the inning and taking a 5-3 lead. Kansas City closer Wade Davis closed out the game, putting the Mets on the brink of elimination.
Like several other games this postseason, Game 5 was a classic full of pivotal plays, gutsy decisions, and a fitting result. New York’s star pitcher, Matt Harvey, was phenomenal, shutting out the hard-hitting Royals for eight innings and striking out nine, while Curtis Granderson provided the offense for the Mets. The Mets held a 2-0 lead in the top of the ninth and all they had to do was get three outs to end the game. Of course, it wasn’t that easy.
Instead of putting in one of his talented relievers, Mets manager Terry Collins sent Harvey back out to finish the game. Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain and allowed a double to Eric Hosmer, which scored Kansas City’s first run. With Hosmer on third and catcher Salvador Perez batting, Collins relieved Harvey with closer Jeurys Familia.
Perez chopped Familia’s fifth pitch to shortstop David Wright, who looked at Hosmer and then threw to first for the easy out. After Wright threw to first, Hosmer bolted home and New York 1st baseman Lucas Duda fired to catcher Travis D’Arnaud. If the throw was accurate, the Mets would’ve tagged out Hosmer, effectively ending the game. Duda’s throw was wide and D’Arnaud couldn’t adjust. Hosmer slid home and scored, tying the game at 2-2 and extending it to extra innings.
The New York relievers kept the Royals’ bats quiet for a couple innings, but Kansas City broke loose in the top of the 12th inning. Perez knocked a leadoff single off reliever Addison Reed and pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson reached 3rd. Seldom-used backup Christian Colon came through, hitting a Reed pitch to left field and sparking a Kansas City outburst. With bases loaded later in the inning, Lorenzo Cain blasted a double that scored three runs and put the Royals on top 7-2. Wade Davis closed it out with a strikeout of Wilmer Flores and the 30-year championship drought was over.
Catcher Salvador Perez was named the World Series MVP, but there were a handful of Royals that came up in the clutch for the Royals. Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, and Ben Zobrist produced when needed and closer Wade Davis, who filled in for the injured Greg Holland, was dominant and was the reason why the Mets couldn’t duplicate the Royals’ late-inning outbursts.
On the other hand, the Mets’ weaknesses were exposed. The rotation was strong, but Jeurys Familia blew three saves, a historic number, and the lineup couldn’t keep up. Murphy, the NCLS hero, couldn’t replicate his performances and made the highlights for the worst reasons.
The winter could dramatically alter these two teams. The Mets could lose Murphy and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and though their rotation will be intact, the bullpen could be mixed up. Kansas City needs to address the rotation, as Cueto is a free agent and another starter would be welcomed. Returns by either team to the World Series would be a surprise, though the Royals did repeat as AL champions this year.
Five years ago, the Royals were at the rock bottom of Major League Baseball. Their rise to the top and championship victory will never be forgotten.