By: Paul DiSclafani
KANSAS CITY: It was Déjà Vu all over again for the Mets as they opened the 2016 season against the team that ended their 2015 season. As was the case last season, the Royals “nickel and dimed” the Mets, continuing with their mantra of “Keep The Line Moving”, starting the defense of their World Series Title with a 4-3 win.
After being shut out for seven innings and looking awful on offense, the Mets (0-1) made it interesting with three runs in the 8th, but failed to plate the tying run in the ninth with a runner on third and one out.
When we last saw these two teams, the Royals (1-0) were being stymied by Matt Harvey on a cold November night in Game 5, facing the prospect of having to travel back to Kansas City for Game 6. Instead, they got to Harvey in the 9th, tied the game on a bad throw by Lucas Duda and won the World Series in the 14th inning.
For the first time in Major League History, the teams that met in the World Series started the next season, and both Harvey and Edison Volquez repeated their Game 5 performances.
Only this time it was Volquez who shut out the Mets as the Royals scratched out a run against Harvey in the first inning. If you recall Game 1 last year, Alcides Escobar hit the first pitch of the game from Harvey into center field, where it was booted by Yoenis Cespedes into left field, allowing Escobar to race around the bases for an Inside-The-Park home run.
Tonight was eerily similar. After Harvey retired Escobar on the first pitch, Matt Moustakas hit a soft line drive to left, where Cespedes lined it up, but it hit the heel of his glove and he dropped it for an error. After a passed ball, Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain on five pitches to bring up Eric Hosmer. With the Mets in a slight shift to the right side, the lefty Hosmer slapped it to the left side and through for a single and the Royals took a 1-0 lead.
Although Harvey settled down and retired the next seven batters, Vasquez was keeping the Mets bats silent, but was throwing a lot of pitches. After four innings, he had thrown over 70 pitches.
The Royals made it 2-0 in the fourth when Lorenzo Cain led off with a single and took third on Hosmer’s second hit of the day. Cain scored on a Kendrys Morales sacrifice fly. With the way Vasquez was dealing, that 2-0 lead looked more like 10-0.
The Mets had managed just two hits of Volquez in his six innings, one from Neil Walker in the third and another from Cespedes in the fourth. Vasquez, who walked three and struck out five, threw 106 pitches.
In the sixth, the Royals tacked on two more against Harvey after two were out. Cain walked to lead off the inning and Hosmer laid down a bunt against the shift, beating out David Wright’s barehanded throw for his third hit of the night. Harvey then got Morales to ground into a double play (the third one of the night for the Mets) and had two strikes on Alex Gordon, before he drove a line drive to center that Juan Lagares came in on, but seemed to give up on, short hopping the ball and the Royals had a 3-0 lead. When World Series MVP Salvador Perez singled up the middle, that was the end of the night for Harvey. Bartolo Colon relieved Harvey and after falling behind Omar Infante 3-0, Infante lined a single up the middle to make it 4-0.
With Vasquez out of the game, the Mets battled back by scoring three times in the 8th. With the bases loaded against reliever Joakim Soria, Duda singled to the opposite field to score both Lagares and Curtis Granderson to put the Mets on the board for the first time. With Cespedes on third and one out, Walker grounded into a fielder’s choice and it was suddenly 4-3. But after Conforto singled to put Walker into scoring position, Luke Hocheavar relieved Soria and Asdrubal Cabrera struck out to end the inning.
Mets made more noise in the ninth when Travis d’Arnaud led off with a walk off closer Wade Davis. Alejandro De Aza then hit into a fielder’s choice, bringing up Granderson, who fouled off two pitches before lining a single up the middle, moving the speedy De Aza all the way to third with just one out.
With a chance to tie the game, Wright fell behind Davis 0-2 before taking a called third strike right down Broadway for the second out, bringing up Cespedes, who was 1-3 with a run scored and a walk. Davis got ahead 0-2 on two called strikes before finishing the job, striking out the Mets slugger swinging to end the game with the tying run on third.
Mets and Royals have tomorrow off and play the final game of the two game series on Tuesday night. Noah Syndergaard (9-7) faces former Met Chris Young.
POSITIVES: Looked like the Mets were overmatched, but they showed grit in coming back against the KC bullpen, which held them scoreless in the World Series … Conforto had two hits, including a double, and two walks as the DH … Mets worked out six walks … Duda drove in two runs … Jerry Blevins returned to the Mets and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning … Mets turned three double plays on the infield
NEGATIVES: Wright didn’t make any errors, but he cost the Mets two runs because of his arm. Both times he fielded the ball, but his throws were not sharp, resulting in infield hits. Then with the tying run 90 feet away and one out in the ninth, he didn’t put the ball in play … Harvey lost focus after the Cespedes error and in the sixth after Wright failed to make the play on Hosmer …