October 31, 2015: Royals rally to beat Mets and take 3-1 lead in World Series
The New York Mets and Kansas City Royals squared off for the fourth game of the 2015 World Series on October 31. Noah Syndergaard had fired up the Mets with his solid performance in Game Three. It was now Steve Matz’s turn to take the mound. This was a dream come true for the left-hander. Matz, 24, grew up on Long Island as a Mets fan and now he was pitching for them in the World Series.1 The start was just the ninth of his major-league career.
Matz pitched well from the start. After Alcides Escobar hit a leadoff single, Matz struck out Ben Zobrist. Zobrist’s hard swing took him over the plate. Escobar was running at the time and Travis d’Arnaud couldn’t complete his throw before Zobrist got in his way. Interference was called, and Escobar was out in an unusual double play.2
Former Mets pitcher Chris Young started for the Royals. He also pitched well at the start, retiring the first six Mets he faced. That changed in the third inning when Michael Conforto hit the first pitch, a fastball, for a solo home run over the right-field fence.3 The Mets were up 1-0.
Conforto had been batting .090 in the playoffs. He had also made a defensive blunder that led to an inside-the-park home run in the first game. Mets manager Terry Collins was forced to defend playing him.4 The home run made Conforto the youngest Met to hit one in a World Series game. He was 22 years and 244 days old that night, more than a year younger than Lenny Dykstra (23 years and 253 days) old when Dykstra knocked a round-tripper in the 1986 fall classic.5
Wilmer Flores followed Conforto with a single. The infielder took second on a wild pitch, moved to third on Matz’s sacrifice bunt, and scored on Curtis Granderson’s sacrifice fly. Flores was helped when the Royals’ Alex Rios apparently thought it was the third out and took a couple of slow steps toward the dugout before making his throw. The Royals challenged the call, claiming that Flores had failed to tag up properly. Video replay, though, sided with the umpires.6 The Mets led 2-0.
The Mets added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth. Conforto slugged another solo home run, this time off reliever Danny Duffy, making the score 3-1. Conforto became the first rookie to homer twice in a World Series game since the Atlanta Braves’ Andruw Jones in 1996,7 and the second Mets player to hit two in one World Series game. Gary Carter smacked a pair in Game Four in 1986.8
By the fifth inning, Matz began to tire. Although he had thrown just 79 pitches out of an expected 95, he wasn’t long for the game as the Royals began to go through their batting order for the third time.9 Zobrist hit his eighth double of the postseason, tying a record. The next batter, Lorenzo Cain, hit a groundball single up the middle that brought home Zobrist.
Collins decided he had seen enough and called in Jon Niese from the bullpen. Cain stole second before Niese could throw his first pitch. Niese regained his focus and got out the next two batters. Collins called on Bartolo Colon. Colon tried to pick Cain off second, but the ball went into center field and Cain took third. Colon wound up throwing 10 pitches to Salvador Perez before striking him out on a low slider that was far off the plate.10 The Royals now trailed 3-2.
Tyler Clippard took the ball for the Mets in the eighth inning. He replaced Addison Reed, who had retired the Royals in order the previous inning. Clippard got leadoff batter Escobar out on a groundball back to the mound. But things turned sour after that.
Although Clippard had been unsteady in the postseason (He had given up three runs and six hits in 4.2 innings total in the NLDS and the NLCS and had thrown a scoreless 1.2 innings in two games so far in the World Series.), the right-hander had walked only one of the 27 batters he had faced in his previous appearances. Now, he walked Zobrist and Cain. Cain battled him for eight pitches before taking first base.11 Collins now called on Jeurys Familia, the Mets’ closer, to face Eric Hosmer. This was the second time in the fall classic that Collins had asked Familia to attempt a save of more than three outs. Familia already had done it four times in the playoffs.12
On the second pitch from Famila, Hosmer hit a slow groundball toward second base. Daniel Murphy charged and the ball skipped under his glove. “I tried to one-hand it,” Murphy said. “That probably deserved to be two-handed. I tried to come through on it. I probably had more time than that. I just misplayed it. Went right under my glove.”13
Murphy’s error allowed Zobrist to score from second with the tying run. Familia was undaunted and fired a 97-mph fastball on the first pitch to the next batter, Mike Moustakas. The third baseman from California hit a single past a diving Murphy. Perez then hit another 96-mph pitch from Familia into the outfield for another run. Perez thumped his chest as his teammates jumped up and down in the dugout. Suddenly the Royals were up, 5-3.14
“[We’re] a team that just looks for a little crack,” said Royals manager Ned Yost after the game. “If we find a little crack, they’re going to make something happen. It’s amazing how they do that.”15 Murphy, who had led the Mets through the playoffs, shared his frustration over his mistake: “[W]e put ourselves in position to win a ballgame today [a]nd I misplayed it. There's no excuse for it. And we lost the ballgame because of it.”16
After the Royals took the lead, Yost called on his closer, Wade Davis, to go for a second two-inning save of the Series. Davis retired the Mets in order in the eighth on just 12 pitches. When he came to bat in the top of the ninth, he watched four Hansel Robles pitches as he struck out in his first plate appearance since August 2, 2013.17
The Mets tried to pull out a win in the ninth inning. David Wright began the frame by striking out. Murphy though, came to the plate with hopes of redeeming his errors in the eighth inning. Murphy hit a Davis fastball for a single off the glove of Moustakas, who had shifted toward the shortstop. This brought Yoenis Cespedes to the plate with the potential tying run. The right-handed batter singled, giving the Mets and their fans hope for a comeback. But the attempt ended soon enough. Lucas Duda lined out to Moustakas, who fired to first base and doubled off Cespedes to end the game.
The win gave the Royals a 3-1 lead in the World Series. The Mets would face the daunting task of winning the next three games. The Royals’ ability to exploit their opponent’s mistakes made this an even more challenging undertaking. As Hosmer said after the game, “Any time they make a mistake, we capitalize. That’s what championship teams do.”18 After all, only five teams have won the World Series after being down 3-1.19
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also used the Baseball-Reference.com, and Retrosheet.org websites for box-score, player, team, and season pages, pitching and batting game logs, and other pertinent material.
1 Tim Rohan, “Royals Defeat the Mets to Take a 3-1 Lead in the World Series,” New York Times, October 31, 2015.
2 Pete Grathoff, “World Series Game 4: Inning-by-inning,” Kansas City Star, November 1, 2015.
3 Jay Jaffe, “Royals Stun Mets in World Series Game 4, Pull Within One Game of Title,” Sports Illustrated.com, November 1, 2015.
5 Andrew Keh, “Royals 5, Mets 3: World Series Game 4 Highlights,” New York Times, October 31, 2015.
8 Mark Carig, “Nightmare Eighth Inning Leaves Mets With 3-1 Deficit in World Series,” Newsday, November 1, 2015.
11 Tyler Kepner, “A Crushing Error, and Now a Daunting Hole,” New York Times, November 1, 2015.
14 Andy McCullough, “Crazy Eighth Helps Royals Stun the Mets 5-3 in Game 4 of the World Series, Kansas City Star, October 31, 2015.
16 Mark Carig, “Nightmare eighth inning leaves Mets with 3-1 deficit in World Series,” Newsday, November 1, 2015.
19 Alan Rubinstein, “World Series Game 7: Five Teams Have Comeback From 3-1 Down to Win,” Call to the Pen.com, November 1, 2016.