World Series 2015: Kansas City ‘comeback kids’ stand at top of the World as Mets’ long wait goes on

The Mets, though down three games to one in the best-of-seven Series, were leading 2-0 at the top of the ninth inning

Kansas City Royals players sport ski masks as they look forward to a post-season skiboarding trip, amid the celebrations of their victory in the World Series
Kansas City Royals players sport ski masks as they look forward to a post-season skiboarding trip, amid the celebrations of their victory in the World Series

Vampires have nothing on the Kansas City Royals. Drive stakes through their hearts, expose them to garlic or extended periods of sunlight, subject them to repeated, multi-run eighth-inning deficits – the Royals brush it all off. As they proved by winning the 2015 World Series in the early hours of Monday morning.

Tomorrow at noon, the old Midwestern cowtown hosts a victory parade for its baseball heroes as they return from New York with Kansas City’s first championship since 1985. But, late on Sunday night, few locals would have dared put that event into their diary schedule.

The Mets, though down three games to one in the best-of-seven Series, were leading 2-0 at the top of the ninth inning. Their ace pitcher Matt Harvey had been mowing down hitters and New York’s redoubtable closer, Jeurys Familia, was still to come. Then the Royals did what they do best. They rose from the dead.

Finally, they got to Harvey, who had prevailed on his manager to let him try for a complete game shutout. Instead, he gave up a walk and a runs batted in (RBI) double. Two-one. Familia took over but by then it was too late. Eric Hosmer, who had smacked the double, was advanced to third. The Royals’ first baseman then made it home on a grounder, helped by a disastrous throwing error by his Mets opposite number, Lucas Duda. Two-two. The rest was inevitable.

Twice already in this series, the Royals had come back from deficits in the eighth inning or later to win. Now their bullpen would hold the Mets in an unrelenting grip. At the top of the 12th, the dam cracked when Christian Colon, an unsung pinch-hitter, singled in the go-ahead run. Aware of their certain fate, the Mets collapsed and four more Royals runs followed. Seven-two. Baseball’s greatest prize belonged to Kansas City.

But only in part did the outcome reflect a simple refusal to go quietly. Yes, eight of their 11 post-season victories have been comebacks. The statistics are astonishing: in 16 play-off games, the Royals have scored 51 runs in the last three innings, conceding only 11. “Never give up,” outfielder Lorenzo Cain enthused after Sunday night’s triumph. “Never give up. Came through again. We’re the comeback kids, if you want to call us that.”

But the comebacks are not accidents. For one thing, the Royals have arguably the best bullpen (relief pitchers) in the major leagues. Whatever their hitters manage late on, the bullpen is not going to make the situation worse. And then they can hit – not spectacularly, but for contact, and when it matters most.

No team strikes out less than the Royals, as the formidable Mets starting rotation discovered the hard way. Time and again, Harvey and fellow fireball starters Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steve Matz would get ahead by two strikes but fail to finish the job.

Add to that terrific speed on the bases and excellent defence and it is no surprise Kansas City recovered from their wrenching loss to the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 Series to put up the best 2015 regular season record in the American League.

Now they’ve taken the final step. And with the young talent at their disposal, the Royals should be there or thereabouts for several years yet.

And ditto, it should be said, the Mets. They, too, are awash with young stars, especially pitching stars. What tipped the balance this time as well was surely the Royals’ recent experience of the Series. An omen? The Mets’ last championship came in 1986. The 30-year rule has just worked for Kansas City. Why not for New York next year.

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