Herrera holds Mets down as Royals rally
Reliever fires three scoreless innings in Series clincher
NEW YORK -- It had been more than two years between three-inning outings for Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera. But his important work in Sunday night's 7-2 Game 5 victory over the Mets that captured the Royals' first World Series title since 1985 had a familiar feeling.
"Last time I went three innings was 2013, here, against the Mets -- unbelievable," said Herrera, who figured in a 4-3, 11-inning win Aug. 3, 2013, but this time ended up dripping in champagne.
Sunday, Herrera -- who struck out the side in order in the eighth -- held the Mets scoreless and gave up just one hit to help push the game to extra innings, where Luke Hochevar earned the win with two dominant innings and Wade Davis finished up because, well, it was just right.
"Herrera with a three-inning stint; he hadn't had one of those all year," manager Ned Yost said. "And Hoch coming back on his third day for two innings to get the win. And Wade to close it out, our pitching was absolutely, unbelievably good."
This Series was full of bullpen accomplishments for Kansas City. It started with another key three-inning performance, from rotation member Chris Young in the 5-4, 14-inning win in Game 1. Davis, who was 4-for-4 on postseason save chances, extended his postseason scoreless streak to 15 outings. Hochevar threw five scoreless postseason innings.
"The whole world saw it last year," pitching coach Dave Eiland said. "I know we came up one game short. And we did it again today. The bullpen goes out, gives us seven innings, six innings. Unbelievable. That's who we are. We have a strong back end of the bullpen, we play defense and our offense just kept getting better and better and better all year long.
"And as a pitching staff, you know you just have to keep it close. And if we can get it over to the bullpen, we can shut teams down and give the offense a chance to come back. We proved it over and over."
Sunday's celebration was not possible without Herrera, who went 1-0 with a miniscule 0.66 ERA in 11 postseason appearances.
Much of Game 5 seemed as if the Mets were en route to solving the Royals' formula of an inexorable offense and impenetrable bullpen. That was until the ninth, when the Royals' hitters finally solved dominant Mets starter Matt Harvey before tying the contest at 2 off the bullpen with Eric Hosmer's alert dash home from third.
Enter Herrera, who threw strikes on 23 of his 33 pitches, faced just nine batters and basically zapped the energy from the Mets.
Michael Conforto welcomed Herrera with a leadoff single in the seventh. But Herrera extracted a double-play grounder from Wilmer Flores and kept the Mets quiet from there.
Herrera, who pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings last year in Game 7 against the Giants only to see the opponent prevail, was so effective that the Mets never gained momentum. Herrera's only three-ball count came at the end of the eighth, when Daniel Murphy worked a seven-pitch at-bat, only to have Herrera freeze him on an 88 mph changeup -- unfair during a confrontation that saw Herrera's fastball reach 98 mph.
Herrera's right arm was not sore after the game. At least not enough to prevent him from bearing the weight of the Commissioner's Trophy.
"This is what it's all about right here -- the stuff of my dreams," Herrera said.