Statcast: How Gordon crushed Familia's quick pitch
Royals left fielder delivered game-tying homer in ninth inning of Game 1
One Jeurys Familia quick pitch could have a long-lasting effect on this World Series.
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon's game-tying ninth-inning home run was awe-striking for multiple reasons and a focal point of Tuesday night's Game 1, which the Royals won, 5-4, in 14 innings.
Familia entered the game not having blown a save since July 30, and he'd only allowed one home run in that span during the regular season. He had thrown 9 2/3 shutout innings this postseason entering Game 1, tallying five saves.
"He doesn't give up home runs, so we were all shocked by it," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We liked where we were at."
Gordon, the longest-tenured Royals player, stepped in against Familia with Kansas City trailing by a run with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
Familia brought the heat -- a 97-mph sinker -- but it never quite bit down toward the dirt, and Gordon was ready for it. As Gordon watched Familia get Salvador Perez to ground out leading off the inning, Gordon picked up on Familia's tendency to use a quick pitch.
"I didn't know he had a quick pitch until he did it to Salvy," said Gordon. "So when I got in the box, I just wanted to make sure I was ready and not be surprised by it. He did it and left me a good pitch to hit. With a guy like that, you just can't let those go by, and you've got to make sure you put good wood on it. And that's what I did."
The Mets closer's sinker carries an average velocity of 97.2 mph and an average spin rate of 2,195 rpm, and he delivers it, on average, with a six-foot extension. Those metrics showed nearly exactly (97 mph, perceived velocity of 96.9 mph, 2,186 rpm, 6.04-foot extension) in the pitch Familia used to induce Perez's groundout.
But when Familia tried to deceive Gordon with a quick pitch, it may have skewed the pitch's effectiveness. According to Statcast™, Familia's extension dropped to just 5.7 feet, meaning the 97.2-mph pitch had a perceived velocity of only 96.4 mph. Further, the pitch had an uncharacteristically high spin rate of 2,327 rpm.
Since pitches with a higher spin rate tend to stay up in the zone longer, the pitch stayed in Gordon's sweet spot rather than fading toward the left fielder's knees.
The result was a historical and game-changing one. Gordon rounded the bases as the tying run and the Royals went on to win in extra innings.