Cespedes' World Series debut quite the adventure
Mets center fielder unable to corral inside-the-park HR, shows off speed on bases
KANSAS CITY -- Mets center fielder Yoenis Cespedes' adventure in Game 1 of the World Series began when Matt Harvey threw his first pitch and Royals leadoff man Alcides Escobar turned it into something that hadn't happened in 86 years.
Cespedes broke from center field to chase Escobar's deep fly ball while Michael Conforto came from left, but neither man caught what became the first inside-the-park home run in a World Series game since 1929. Cespedes, whose availability for the Series was briefly in question because of a sore left shoulder, later atoned by manufacturing a Mets run with his legs. But the opening act loomed large in a 14-inning, 5-4 loss to the Royals that was arguably the most epic Game 1 in World Series history. The Mets will try to bounce back and even the Series in Game 2 on Wednesday night on FOX (7:30 p.m. ET air time, 8 p.m. game time).
"Yeah, it should have been caught," Mets manager Terry Collins said after five hours and nine minutes of baseball. "But it wasn't caught."
According to Statcast™, Cespedes logged a respectable route efficiency of 95.7 percent and covered a total distance of 109 feet before his moment of confusion with Conforto. The baseball hit him in the leg and rolled away.
Collins indicated that Conforto had the best chance to catch the ball and Conforto indeed took the blame, saying he deferred at the last moment because he thought he heard Cespedes call for the baseball. Had he done so, Cespedes would have had priority as the center fielder.
But Cespedes subsequently told reporters, "I didn't say anything."
"As I ran up to the ball I looked at Conforto," Cespedes said, "and by the time I looked up, I had lost the ball. ... After I lost it, of course I tried to go back and grab it. I tried to do something."
The baseball settled near the base of the wall while Escobar chugged around the bases at a maximum speed of 20 mph.
"When I hit it, I said, 'That's a double or triple,'" Escobar said. "Then I saw my third-base coach and he sent me to home plate. I said, 'Wow. Where's the ball?'"
Said Conforto: "I thought I heard something. It sounded like, 'I got it,' so I pulled up. I really don't want to make any excuses. I had a shot to catch that ball. Really, that ball can't get down. We're in the World Series, and it's got to be caught. I had a chance to make that play and I didn't make it."
Since the ball struck Cespedes, official scorer David Boyce had a decision to make: Hit or error?
He quickly ruled it a hit.
"[Cespedes] just wasn't in position to make the play," Boyce said. "He didn't have his glove down close enough to it. It looked like there was confusion between two fielders."
From the mound, Harvey vowed to move on.
"Stuff like that happens," Harvey said. "I don't think you're really expecting the first pitch of the game to be [hit] deep into the gap like that."
Cespedes and the Mets had not played since Wednesday, when he exited Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Cubs in the second inning with a sore left shoulder. Wrigley Field may have been to blame, Cespedes said. Because the cramped visitors' clubhouse lacks a proper weight room, he did push-ups that day instead, and that may have caused the tweak.
By Monday, however, Collins was able to say unequivocally that Cespedes would play.
Asked how his shoulder held up, Cespedes said, "It was good."
In the sixth inning, Cespedes helped the Mets extend their lead. He singled off Royals starter Edinson Volquez and took third on a Lucas Duda single that beat the Royals' defensive shift on the right side of the infield. Cespedes reached a max speed of 19.4 mph, according to Statcast™, while needing only 7.19 seconds to go from first to third. That's the fourth-fastest first-to-third time that Statcast™ has tracked for Cespedes all year.
He flashed his speed again two batters later, reaching 21.5 mph between third base and home to score on Conforto's sacrifice fly for a 3-1 lead. Cespedes slid safely ahead of Alex Gordon's throw home.
"I thought we recovered pretty good," Collins said. "We came back and again got the lead. We didn't get frustrated. We kept pitching and trying to get outs and we did. And we came back, got the lead. ...
"But certainly to start the game like that on the first pitch was a little bit stunning, yeah."