KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This is the best thing about baseball. You can't always give the ball to Steph Curry or LeBron James with the game on the line. There are 25 guys on the roster, and you never know when the 18th guy or 21st guy or 25th guy might decide a game, even a World Series game.
It started in the rain with a crazy inside-the-park home run on the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning and unfolded like a World Series artful documentary: tense, dramatic, second-guesses, heroes, clutch home runs, old guys, guys off the scrap heap, bunts, errors, balls deflecting off bases and walls behind home plate, and even a television blackout that had everyone wondering who pulled the plug. In short, it had a little bit of everything. It even tied the record for the longest World Series game ever played and was the second-longest by time.
I can't take this anymore. Why is baseball trying to kill me? And why is that guy in the front row in KC wearing a Dodgers cap? @Mets— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) October 28, 2015
1. Chris Young. Our first hero. He's spent much of his career injured. He went to the minors in 2013 at age 34 in a comeback attempt. Found a job with Seattle last season and pitched well. Didn't latch on with Kansas City until March, a last-minute signing mainly for depth. He was drafted 15 years ago, and here he is at age 36, finally reaching his first World Series.
He was supposed to be the Game 4 starter, but Royals manager Ned Yost went to him in the 12th inning, having run almost through all of his relievers as the game stretched on. We've spent the past several days talking about all the hard throwers in the series, and your Game 1 winner turns out to be a 6-foot-10 guy who played basketball at Princeton and who didn't throw one pitch that cracked 90 mph all regular season but suddenly hit that eight times on this night. World Series adrenaline, my friends. Young faced 10 batters, gave up no hits and struck out the side in the 12th and four batters overall.
It's funny how baseball works: Wade Davis is a dominant reliever, maybe the best in the game, a guy with sub-1.00 ERAs two seasons in a row. Yet Yost used him for only one inning and 18 pitches. But he used a guy who was basically free talent, unwanted, for three innings and 53 pitches.
And that guy delivered.
"That's the best Game 1 World Series I've seen since Kirk Gibson's walk-off in 1988." - Tim Kurkjian LIVE on BBTN pic.twitter.com/W1SS2uVOUj— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) October 28, 2015
2. Ben Zobrist. Our second hero. Good thing his wife didn't go into labor in the 13th inning. Zobrist hit a big double way back in the sixth inning, sparking the Royals to the two runs that tied the score at 3-3. You know, before the Mets took the lead. Before the Royals tied it up. Before we played deep into the night. Anyway, in the 14th, David Wright booted Alcides Escobar's routine grounder leading off the inning, and you got the feeling the end was coming. It was Wright who made the error, Mr. Met, playing in his first World Series after suffering through years of losing records. Why Wright? What did he do to the baseball gods?
Zobrist followed with a hard ground single to right field on a 2-1, 85 mph fastball from Bartolo Colon, who was running on fumes in his third inning of relief. Escobar easily scooted over to third, Lorenzo Cain was intentionally walked and Eric Hosmer delivered the winning, somewhat anticlimactic sacrifice fly to right field.
In retrospect, I'm not sure why Mets manager Terry Collins lifted Jon Niese after two innings and just 21 pitches. Niese, a left-hander, was very sharp, and with Kendrys Morales having been removed earlier for a pinch runner and Alex Rios also out of the game, the Royals' balanced lineup wasn’t as much of a problem to match up with. When Colon came in, three of the next four hitters were right-handed, but one of those was backup Paulo Orlando and one was leadoff hitter Escobar, who isn’t a power threat. Maybe we're grasping here; Colon had done solid work in his few postseason innings. But second-guessing is part of the fun. And in the end, the Mets have to take the fall here. Curtis Granderson's home run was the only extra-base hit in 14 innings; that's going to win you many games.
Zobrist is a free agent. Paging Mr. David Glass ...
A wheelbarrow of cash for Mr. Zobrist, please. #Royals— Craig Brown (@royalsauthority) October 28, 2015
3. Alex Gordon. Our third hero. His home run off Jeurys Familia in the bottom of the ninth to center field to tie the score was obviously the hit that will be remembered from this game. Huge, clutch, and all that. I'm pretty sure Royals fans willed him to do it. Or so it seemed.
Gordon's HR was the first game-tying or go-ahead HR in the 9th inning or later of G1 of a WS since Gibson's HR off Eckersley in 1988.— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) October 28, 2015
Familia: First blown save since July 30. First homer allowed since Sept. 23. First run allowed after 10 1/3 scoreless this postseason.— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) October 28, 2015
4. David Wright. Man ... not only did he make the error, but he had a big chance in the 11th inning against Ryan Madson, a struggling reliever who had allowed 10 hits and four home runs in 5⅔ postseason innings entering the game. With two on and two out, Wright fouled off three pitches on 3-2 before going down swinging on a tough cutter that broke away from him.
I'm reminded of a great quote from Zobrist on Monday: "The World Series can be the defining week of your career." He was talking in positive terms. Let's hope Wright rebounds from this game.
"I got an in-between hop," Wright said of that Escobar grounder in the 14th. "The ball kind of came up on me, and I just couldn't get a glove on it. It hit my wrist, and then it got me in the midsection. I know he can run, so I tried to rush the throw a little bit and couldn't get him."
5. Edinson Volquez pitching through family tragedy. Before the game started, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reported that Volquez learned on his way to the ballpark that his father had died earlier in the day, so we can only imagine the mental fortitude of Volquez to go ahead and pitch and then pitch well enough to keep the Royals in the game.
Now, the baseball stuff related to his start. In each of his first three postseason starts, Volquez had faltered at the same point in the game: in the fifth and sixth innings, against the third time through the order. I'd written that this could be vital to the outcome of this World Series -- how long Yost sticks with his starters. He usually waits until they get into trouble to go to his deep and strong bullpen. And once again he waited until Volquez got into trouble. The Mets scored in the fourth, and then Granderson, up for the third time, homered in the fifth to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. Then the Mets chipped away with another run in the sixth, with only a nice play by Mike Moustakas with two outs possibly preventing another run.
I get that part of what makes Yost work with this team is his unending belief in his players. But there's a pattern, and it suggests you need to go to the bullpen around the sixth inning with Volquez. I hate to keep beating this into the ground, but these are decisions affecting who wins and who loses.
Honorable mention: The inside-the-park home run (er, more like four-base error), Cain's bunt attempt, the pure filth that is Davis' stuff, Daniel Murphy doesn't homer, didn't Matt Harvey start this game but that seemed ages ago, Michael Cuddyer goes 0-for-3 with three K's, who is Paulo Orlando, Royals fans, Game 2.