NEW YORK — It will be the replay that is played over and over again all winter, the haunting image that will make each bitterly cold day all the more bitter in New York.
The man in the gray jersey dances off third base, then makes a mad dash for home. The unsuspecting man in the blue jersey clutches the ball, hurries his throw, and misses his target badly.
With a good throw, the New York Mets win, and they remain alive in the World Series. With this throw, they set themselves up for a sudden and painful end.
The Kansas City Royals won their first World Series championship since 1985, forcing extra innings with that daring play by Eric Hosmer and winning the game in the 12th inning.
Royals catcher Salvador Perez was the World Series most valuable player, one year after making the final out of the Game 7 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
“In 2015, Kansas City is No. 1,” Perez said. “Who cares about what happened last year?”
On Sunday night, the final score was 7-2. The Royals scored the winning run on a pinch-hit single by Christian Colon, a reserve infielder who had not batted in the postseason. Colon, a Cal State Fullerton product drafted three picks ahead of Matt Harvey in 2010, secured his place in Royals immortality by driving in pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson with the winning run.
The Royals won the series in five games. They became the first team to win three World Series games in which they trailed entering the eighth inning.
Royals manager Ned Yost, roundly ridiculed at the start of last year’s playoffs, has the best record of anyone to manage at least 20 postseason games. He has more postseason victories than Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi, Mike Matheny and Mike Scioscia.
The Mets staggered back into their clubhouse for the final time this season, replaying the scenes that will nag at them all winter.
Should they have pulled Harvey after eight shutout innings and let their closer start the ninth? They did not, so they rushed Jeurys Familia into the middle of an inning, with the tying run 180 feet from home plate, and that tying run scored.
Mets manager Terry Collins told Harvey he was done after eight, then let Harvey persuade him otherwise.
“I let my heart get in the way of my gut,” Collins said.
In explaining the decision, Collins used the words “my fault” three times.
Should they have pulled Yoenis Cespedes after he fouled a pitch off his kneecap and crumpled to the ground in pain? They had the bases loaded and none out in the sixth inning, with a chance to blow the game open. Cespedes could not even walk, let alone run. He popped out, then limped off the field.
And, of course, how could first baseman Lucas Duda make such a poor throw in the ninth inning? That will be Duda’s Bill Buckner moment, because a good throw would have nailed Hosmer and sent the series back to Kansas City.
Duda acknowledged he was surprised when Hosmer raced home.
“It takes some (guts) to do what he did,” Duda said. “The game was on the line. He went for it.”
As the Mets batted in the bottom of the eighth, with Familia at the ready, the crowd left no doubt about its desire: “We Want Harvey.”
They got Harvey, who sprinted to the mound for the ninth inning, then gave up a walk to Lorenzo Cain and an RBI double to Hosmer.
The shutout was gone. The tying run was in scoring position. The Mets turned to Familia.
Mike Moustakas grounded out, with Hosmer taking third.
Salvador Perez then grounded to third base, where David Wright looked Hosmer back toward third. But Wright was not all that close to the base, so Hosmer did not return all the way to the bag.
Said Wright: “I tried my best to hold him, to freeze him at third base. Obviously, that’s tough to do with nobody over there covering.”
Wright threw to first, Hosmer took off for home, and Duda’s throw home was hurried and off line. Hosmer jumped up in celebration. The Royals, three outs from getting shut out and one run from losing, had tied the score, 2-2.
Duda’s throw went wide, way wide.
“I’ve got to make a better throw. No excuses,” Duda said. “I’m not going to sit here and make excuses about grip. There’s no excuses about what happened.”
That left Familia as the first pitcher to blow three saves in a World Series. He blew five saves in the regular season.
“Baseball is a crazy game,” Familia said.
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