Players in the Postseason: #WinorGoHome #ItsBlackandWhite (Nov. 1)
Updated: Nov. 1
According to published reports, this Chicago-born player, whose parents were both school teachers, grew up rooting for the Atlanta Braves because his hometown Cubs' afternoon games often preempted broadcasts of the popular TV series "Saved by the Bell." A college graduate with degrees in business administration and business marketing, he holds a player-elected leadership position with the Major League Baseball Players Association. Who is he?
For the New York Mets it's #WinOrGoHome #ItsBlackandWhite time. The Royals lead the best-of-seven World Series, 3-1, and with a win in Game 5 at Citi Field Sunday at 8:07 pm ET on FOX, they can win their first Series title since 1985.
"It's a great feeling. We're in the driver's seat,'' said Eric Hosmer. "It's tough to beat a team three times in a row. But at the same time they are a good team. We play our game and we're world champions.''
Of all people, it was the guy who has lifted the Mets on his back this entire postseason, along the way setting an MLB record for consecutive games with a home run. Daniel Murphy allowed Eric Hosmer's slow bouncing ball to skip past his glove in the eighth inning.
In that instant, as the ball dribbled into shallow right field and Ben Zobrist raced home from second base with the tying run, the Mets and Murphy's championship fortunes changed from hopeful to desperate, and the Halloween crowd at Citi Field got quiet.
"I just misplayed it," Murphy said. "It went under my glove. They made us pay for it. I put us in a really bad spot. And that's frustrating."
As Murphy took the questions and the blame in the somber Mets clubhouse afterward, his teammates, the guys who understand how much he has meant to the club all season long, stuck up for their hard-nosed second baseman.
"Obviously, this is tough," Michael Cuddyer said. "But I think anybody that's been following us knows how huge he's been for us. And obviously, the country knows how huge he's been for us. So if you have selective memory on Daniel Murphy, shame on you.
"Without him, we wouldn't be here."
The Royals have now come from behind in seven of their 10 postseason wins, including five victories in which they've trailed by more than one run.
"There's just a belief," pitcher Chris Young said. "There's just a belief among the guys. Doesn't matter what the score is. They're just going to find a way to get it done."
Wade Davis, who took over the closer role for the Royals this season following Greg Holland's elbow injury in August, was never asked to get more than three outs over 69 regular-season appearances. But he now has two two-inning saves and a five-out win in the postseason.
"I don't think it changes much," Davis said. "It's the World Series. You have a lot more adrenaline to wind up and go out there and give everything you've got. A couple more outs really doesn't change anything."
The 30-year-old Floridian emerged as one of the game's best at his new role, finishing with 17 saves and allowing just seven earned runs in 67 1/3 innings for a 0.94 ERA during the regular season. He hasn't given up a run in 9 2/3 postseason innings while striking out 15 batters.
"One of the best closers in baseball," teammate Mike Moustakas said. "And he goes out there, he's throwing 98, 99 and 94 and 95 (mph) cutters. And he has a breaking ball that's devastating. It's fun to watch as far as sitting back at third base."
The childhood dream comes true, Part II
After commuting to Citi Field from his boyhood home, 24-year-old Steven Matz's first World Series start didn't end with a victory, but not for lack of performance or effort by the rookie left-hander. He allowed two runs over five innings, striking out five Royals batters, and left with a lead. But the Royals' comeback in the eighth inning made the gutsy performance a footnote.
"It's tough. Nobody wants to lose," said Matz, who was making just his ninth start in the big leagues.
Matz, who began the season with Class A Port St. Lucie and was 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA in six regular-season starts after reaching the Majors in June, was poised on the mound, having spent the hours before the game answering the doorbell for trick-or-treaters at his parents' Long Island home.
"There were a lot of people coming up to the door," he said.
Michael Conforto became the first rookie since Andruw Jones in 1996 to homer twice in a World Series game, leading off the third inning with a first-pitch blast off Royals starter Chris Young and hitting another into the bullpen off left-hander Danny Duffy.
"The feeling after the two home runs was tremendous," the 22-year-old outfielder said. "You dream about those moments, but you're also conflicted. You want to get that win."
Drafted 10th overall out of Oregon State in 2014 and called up in July, Conforto had just 194 plate appearances before making the Mets postseason roster.
The Dark Knight
Matt Harvey will pitch in this #WinOrGoHome game for the Mets. Much attention has been given to how best to protect his arm this season as he returned from elbow surgery, but now the pitcher known as "The Dark Knight" is down to his final start.
Harvey, who missed the final month of 2013 and all of 2014 following Tommy John surgery, came back to go 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA over 189 1/3 innings in the regular season and 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA over another 18 2/3 innings in the postseason. He enters Game 5 with 208 innings pitched and will add to that however many innings he pitches tonight. If the Mets can win two straight, he will also be available from the bullpen in a winner-take-all Game 7.
"I think I'm most happy about the normal rest and doing everything I can to help this team," the 26-year-old right-hander said. "Obviously, I love pitching here at Citi Field. They give me great energy. For me, I think it's a lot of excitement, but yet it's still a baseball game and I still have to go out and do my job."
Harvey, who had extra rest before his Game 1 start in which he allowed three runs over six innings, knows stopping the Royals' relentless attack will be the biggest challenge.
"I think they're a good team at making adjustments and throughout the game it seems from at-bat to at-bat they're able to adjust and make different changes," Harvey said. "It seems like early in their count they're taking a chance to kind of go big fly, and then later as the game goes on they adjust. So as the starting pitcher you've got to be able to adjust with them and pick up on that."
Harvey would like nothing better than to give the Mets a strong performance and put discussion of pitch counts and innings limitations to rest.
"You look at guys who have thrown 230 innings year after year after year, that's kind of somebody who I've always wanted to be," Harvey said. "I think obviously after this start I'll probably be, hopefully, around 215 innings or so, and that's a good mark for me."
The Royals players did their best to welcome Game 5 starter Edinson Volquez with comfort and support late Saturday afternoon when he returned to the club in New York following his father Daniel's funeral in the Dominican Republic.
"Every one of us gave him a big hug. We love the dude. He's our brother," pitcher Danny Duffy said. "Under the circumstances I don't know if I'd be strong enough, but he's an amazing teammate, an amazing human being."
Volquez wasn't told his father had died on Tuesday until after pitching Game 1 for Kansas City later that night. He pitched six innings and the Royals won, 5-4, in 14 innings. He left Kansas City for the Dominican Republic the next day and rejoined his teammates just before game time yesterday.
"It was unreal," Volquez said. "(Eric) Hosmer and (Mike) Moustakas and Chris Young, (Alex) Rios, the whole team, they came to see me. All those guys were like 'Hey, man, we're excited to see you back on the team.'"
Volquez, who is 1-2 with a 4.37 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 13 walks in 22 1/3 innings in the postseason, said he would write his father's name inside his hat or glove and try to honor his family and his dad's memory.
"I wish he could be here right now and enjoy every game that I pitch," Volquez said. "I'm going to be thinking of my mom, and the rest of my family is going to be so happy to see me pitch. My mom told me before I got here: 'Go over there and enjoy the game like you always do and be proud. We are proud of you.'"
"We never put our heads down. Never. We like to compete. We like to play hard. And we'll see what happens at the end of the game. That's what we do every game." -- Royals catcher Salvador Perez
The Trivia Answer
Curtis Granderson, New York Mets
Follow us @MLB_Players and to catch our postseason social media series, titled #WinOrGoHome #ItsBlackandWhite, featuring some up-close photos courtesy of Getty Sports.