Rare home run off Familia stuns Mets
Closer had tossed 9 2/3 shutout innings in postseason before Game 1
KANSAS CITY -- One of the defining moments of the Mets' season occurred on July 30, between rain delays, when Jeurys Familia blew a save against the Padres on a Justin Upton three-run homer. Stunned silence washed over Citi Field that afternoon, broken only a day later when the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes.
The Mets could not know it at the time, but that was to be Familia's final blown save until Tuesday's 5-4, 14-inning loss to the Royals in Game 1 of the World Series (Game 2, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET airtime on FOX, game time at 8). Asked to contribute four outs and protect a one-run lead, Familia instead gave up his first run of the postseason, watched his first homer in five weeks sail over the fence and blew his first save since the day before Cespedes came to town.
"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."
Where the Mets were was spitting distance from their first World Series lead since 1986. They were calling on Familia -- he of the upper-90s sinker and mid-90s splitter -- to nail down the final four outs at Kauffman Stadium. What happened next, teammate Jon Niese said, was "hard to believe, because Familia's been so good."
When Familia retired Salvador Perez on a groundout to open the ninth, Alex Gordon watched from the on-deck circle as he used a quick pitch -- a weapon that several relievers on New York's staff utilize -- against him. So when Gordon dug in, he was ready for a similar offering: a 97-mph sinker that never bit down toward the dirt.
Gordon struck, redirecting it over the center-field fence.
"Definitely wasn't trying to do that against him," Gordon said. "Great sinker, so I wanted to be ready for it."
The Mets were left stunned, hardly able to believe their lockdown closer had surrendered a run.
"In this ballpark, on a night like tonight, off Familia, to the biggest part of the ballpark?" designated hitter Kelly Johnson said. "What are the odds?"
Low, if the history means anything. Only five times during the regular season did Familia blow saves, three of those during an 11-day span in late July. At that point, Familia began using his split-finger fastball in games with great success; he ripped off a run of 16 consecutive save conversions to finish the season, posting a 1.23 ERA over that stretch. Then he went unscored upon during the first two rounds of postseason play, recording four-plus outs in three of his eight appearances.
It was with all that as a backdrop that Collins called upon Familia for four outs in Game 1 -- and will continue to do so going forward, despite the blown save that changed this World Series.
"I'm not surprised because I can make a mistake -- everybody makes mistakes in this game," Familia said. "I'll just try to move forward and that's it."