Alex Gordon had a privileged view of the last pitch of the 2014 World Series. He was on third base, 90 feet from home, in the bottom of the ninth inning. He was the tying run. That is as close as he got as he was left stranded on third base. After that game, Gordon bemoaned the fact that his lack of speed meant he was held at third instead of being sent to home plate after the San Francisco Giants misplaced his harmlessly-hit single into near game-tying heroics.
So when Gordon got up to face Mets closer, Jeurys Familia in the bottom of ninth inning of Game 1 of the 2015 World Series night with a chance to tie the game, he decided to take his slowness on the basepaths out of the equation by blasting a game-tying homer off a pitcher who hadn’t blown a save since July.
Last year, the Royals were World Series newbies. This year they are hardened by the experience of losing in game seven at home and the offseason of what if's that followed.
In the build-up to the Series many wondered how the Royals would cope with the Mets quartet of twentysomething flamethrowers equipped with fastballs quicker than most of us have ever driven.
So far this series the Royals have hit the fastball with great success. In the Mets previous two series against the Dodgers and Cubs, those two teams combined to swing and miss at 31.7% of fastballs thrown against them and strike out 23.6% of the time when facing the same pitch. Through the first two games of this series the Royals have swung and missed only at 15.4% and struck out a measly in compression 9.3% against the fastball.
In layman’s terms that means Mets pitching can’t rely on overpowering the Royals with heat the same way they have done to every other team they have faced this postseason. In fact in a stat pointed out by Grantland's Jonah Keri, the Mets' starting pitchers in the first two games of the series have only struck out a combined 4 Royals.
Indeed the Mets didn’t have to wait long to find out that these Royals were a different challenge. On the very first pitch of the Series, Matt Harvey threw a lazy fastball right down the middle of the plate that was turned into an inside the park home run by the light-hitting Alcides Esocbar.
The Royals and Mets now head to New York with momentum firmly with Kansas City. But as the saying goes, momentum in baseball is only as good as the next days starting pitcher. That is not as comforting a thought as it once was for these Mets.