Road victory puts Royals in line for the throne
Signature rally has KC one win from World Series title
NEW YORK -- Longtime NBA head coach George Karl popularized the adage that a postseason series did not start until the home team lost a game.
By that standard, the 2015 World Series began Saturday night with the Kansas City Royals' 5-3 victory over the New York Mets. And yet, by all outward appearances, this was Game 4.
But I'm with Karl on this one. Up until Game 4, what you had was home teams winning. The Royals won two home games, then the Mets won one home game. And for quite a while Saturday night, it appeared that Mets would win another home game to tie the Series. There was nothing like a verdict being delivered under those circumstances.
But then the Royals happened, coming from behind late, as they have done so often. And what we had, instead of a 2-2 World Series, was that great big breakthrough game, the home loss, the road victory, the defining moment of this World Series to date.
This victory put Kansas City up, 3-1, in the Series. There have been 43 teams with a 3-1 lead in best-of-seven World Series history, and 38 have gone on to win. Those are substantial odds against the Mets. And even without the history, the way the Royals are playing, you can't see them losing three straight to anybody when it really matters.
After Noah Syndergaard's first pitch buzzed Alcides Escobar in Game 3, there was a lot of speculation about possible retaliation by Kansas City. But the Royals didn't throw at anybody. They retaliated the best way possible -- by winning the baseball game, the biggest game of the Series, the game that is likely to be the turning point of the entire event.
"Yeah, the best kind [of retaliation] would be to win a world championship," said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. "That speaks for itself. The game has a way of taking care of itself. We definitely didn't come here focusing on that, we came in here focusing on finding a way to win a ballgame. That will take care of itself."
This turning-point victory, this Game 4 beginning of the 2015 Fall Classic, was equal parts unlikely and typical for Kansas City. The Royals have won 10 games during this postseason. They have come from behind in seven of those victories.
"That's just what our team does," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We feel like if we can keep the game close, we're going to find a way to win it. Our bullpen is so dynamic, [it] gives us a chance to win those type of games. And it's a team that just looks for a little crack. If we find a little crack, we're going to make something happen. It's amazing how they do that. But the most important thing is they put the ball in play."
Trailing, 3-2, with one out in the eighth against Mets closer Jeurys Familia, Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain walked. The Royals may have been 29th in the Majors in walks this season, but when they need one or two, they'll find a way.
Then came the "little crack" in the Mets' defense, when Hosmer hit a grounder to second baseman Daniel Murphy. It rolled under Murphy's glove for an error, with both runners alertly advancing two bases.
"I was running pretty hard, just trying not to get doubled up," Hosmer said. "You look up and the ball's in the outfield. It was just a huge break for us, and we capitalized on it."
That tied the game. Then Mike Moustakas singled in the lead run. Then Salvador Perez singled in an insurance run. Two walks, two singles and an error on a grounder to second, and the Royals turned this World Series around.
"The whole Series changes if it goes to 2-2," Hosmer said. "They've got [Matt] Harvey on the mound in Game 5 at home, and the momentum changes, big time. This was huge for us to get this win."
Edinson Volquez will face Harvey in Game 5 on Sunday night (8 p.m. ET on FOX). This was the same pair that started Game 1, which was settled long after both starters had departed, with Kansas City winning, 5-4, in 14 innings.
It will be an emotional experience with Volquez returning to the Royals after attending the funeral of his father in the Dominican Republic. For Kansas City, though, a championship is now within range. The Royals made this situation possible with the new start to this World Series, the first victory for a road team making the immense difference between 3-1 and 2-2.