This article was written by Thomas J. Brown Jr.
The New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals were ready to square off in Game One of the 2015 World Series. A crowd of 40,320 packed Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium on October 27. This was a special date for both clubs. The Royals’ last Series championship came on October 27, 1985, and the Mets last won on October 27, 1986.1
The Royals were returning to the World Series for the second consecutive year, having lost in seven games to the San Francisco Giants in 2014. Kansas City manager Ned Yost chose right-handed pitcher Edinson Volquez to start. Several hours before the game, Yost learned that Volquez’s father had died. Volquez’s family sent him a request: “Don’t tell Eddie; let him go out and pitch Game One of the World Series.” Yost honored their request although he worried about word getting to Volquez during the game.2
Mets manager Terry Collins planned to start his star young pitcher Matt Harvey, who had thrown 7⅔ innings on his way to winning the first game of the National League Championship Series on October 17. The Mets did not trail the Chicago Cubs for a single inning in that series and were hoping to repeat their success in the fall classic.
After Volquez got the Mets out in order in the top of the first, the Royals grabbed the lead on Harvey’s first pitch. Alcides Escobar sent a ball to the warning track in center field. Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes converged, but neither one called for the ball. At the last moment, Cespedes tried to make a backhand catch, but the hit glanced off his leg and bounced away. The speedy Escobar raced around the bases. By the time the Mets caught up with the ball, Escobar had an inside-the-park home run, and the Royals were up 1-0. This was the first inside-the-park homer in World Series play since Mule Haas hit one in Game Four of the 1929 Series against the Chicago Cubs, and the 20th leadoff home run in World Series history.3
Curtis Granderson hit a solo home run in the top of the fifth, and the Mets went ahead 2-1. They added a third run in the sixth inning when consecutive singles by Murphy and Cespedes were followed by Conforto’s sacrifice fly that scored Murphy.
The Royals fought back. Harvey had pitched well after giving up the first-inning home run. In the bottom of the sixth, he surrendered a double to Ben Zobrist and a single to Lorenzo Cain. Zobrist scored on Eric Hosmer’s sacrifice fly, and the score was 3-2. Kendrys Morales grounded back to Harvey, but a Mike Moustakas single tied the game.
Harvey had returned from elbow surgery. Even before the Mets’ postseason run, he had pitched past the innings limit that had been imposed on him for the season. Many wondered if those extra innings had taken a toll on his velocity. “I didn’t feel great. I didn’t have my best stuff,” said Harvey after the game.4
The Mets took the lead back in the top of the eighth inning. With two outs, Juan Lagares battled set-up reliever Kelvin Herrera over nine pitches before hitting a single and then stealing second. Lagares scored when first baseman Hosmer attempted a backhand on Wilmer Flores’ grounder, but the ball bounced past him for a single. “I thought it was going to be an out,” Flores said afterward. “I thought he was going to get in front of it and that was it. It’s a routine groundball.”5
When the Royals put two men on base in the eighth, the Mets sent in their closer, Jeurys Familia, to relieve Tyler Clippard with two out. Familia, who had not given up a run in the 2015 postseason, got his team safely out of the inning by getting Moustakas to ground out. It was different in the bottom of the ninth. After getting leadoff batter Salvador Perez to ground out, Familia faced hard-hitting left fielder Alex Gordon.
Familia had a dominating 98 mph fastball and a concrete-heavy sinker. With a 1-and-1 count, Familia decided to quick-pitch Gordon. It didn’t work. Gordon ripped a line-drive homer to center field and once again the score was tied, this time 4-4. “He tried to quick-pitch me and left the ball right there to hit,” Gordon said after the game. “With a guy like that, you can’t miss pitches that he gives you to hit.” Afterward, Familia acknowledged his mistake. “As soon as I let that pitch go, I say, ‘Oh man.’”6
Gordon’s home run was the first game-tying or go-ahead home run since the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson hit one off Oakland A’s closer Dennis Eckersley in 1988.7 Gibson’s home run won that game. This game would now head to extra innings after Familia settled down and got the next two batters out.
It became a pitching contest as the game headed into extra innings. Batters on both teams stopped hitting. From the 10th inning through the 13th, the Mets managed just one bunt single and struck out nine times. The Royals did not fare much better. Although they struck out only three times, they only had three hits during that span.
Manager Collins called on Bartolo Colon, who was usually a starter, to take over the pitching duties for the Mets in the 12th inning. Colon kept the Royals off-balance for two innings.
In the 14th, however, things changed. Escobar, who had ignited the Royals with his first-inning home run, hit a grounder to David Wright. The ball hit Wright’s wrist, bounced off his midsection and plopped to the dirt. Wright picked it up and whipped an errant side-arm throw to first base. Escobar ended up on second. “I got an in-between hop and the ball came up on me,” Wright said. “I tried to rush the throw a little bit.”8
Zobrist then singled to right field. Escobar moved to third. Colon intentionally walked Cain to load the bases and set up an out at any base. After Hosmer fouled off two of Colon’s pitches, he hit a fly ball to right field. It was deep enough for Escobar to score and give the Royals a 5-4 win.
As Escobar crossed the plate, the Royals rushed out of the dugout. Gordon ran straight to Hosmer. Then Perez lifted Hosmer off the ground. Hosmer had gone from goat to hero in a short time.9
Colon, 42 years and 157 days old, became the oldest losing pitcher in a World Series game. Before this, the oldest losing pitcher was Grover Cleveland Alexander, who was 41 years and 231 days old when he lost to the Yankees while pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1928 World Series.10
By the time the game ended after 5 hours and 9 minutes, it had become the third game in World Series history to stretch for 14 innings. The last time that happened was in 2005 when the Chicago White Sox vanquished the Houston Astros, 7-5.11 Using the momentum of their marathon win, the Royals never looked back and won the 2015 World Series in five games.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also used the Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball-Almanac.com, and Retrosheet.org websites for box-score, player, team, and season pages, pitching and batting game logs, and other pertinent material.
1 Ted Berg, “10 Crazy Facts About the Royals and Mets’ 14-Inning Game 1 Marathon,” USA Today, October 28, 2015.
2 Vahe Gregorian, “Drama Fills Royals’ 14-Inning Victory in World Series Game 1,” Kansas City Star, October 28, 2015.
3 Thomas Harding, “Escobar’s inside-the-park HR one for the ages,” mlb.com, October 28, 2015.
4 Michael Powell, “Could Have, Should Have, Didn’t: An Epitaph for Game 1,” New York Times, October 28, 2015.
5 Mark Carig, “Mets Lose in 14th Inning After Alex Gordon’s Clutch HR in Ninth,” Newsday, October 28, 2015.
9 Sam Mellinger, “Eric Hosmer’s Late Heroics in World Series Game 1 Give Royals a Shot of Confidence,” Kansas City Star, October 28, 2015.
11 Associated Press, “World Series Extra-Inning Games,” federalnewsradio.com, November 3, 2016.