The Value of Defense in a Postseason Series

Photo Credit: Robert Sabo/New York Daily News
Photo Credit: Robert Sabo/New York Daily News

The Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets will make history on April 3rd when they become the first two teams to begin a new season with a World Series rematch. For the most part, the core of these two rosters remain intact from last season’s Fall Classic.

Looking back on the series, it could have went either way. There are a lot of similarities between these two franchises. However, there is one glaring difference: the Mets defense.

The Mets had a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning in Game One, when Alex Gordon’s home run to tie the game is considered to be the turning point of the series by many.

But let’s take a look at the bottom of the fourteenth, when Kansas City walked-off on a sacrifice fly by Eric Hosmer. Alcides Escobar led off the inning and reached first base on a throwing error by David Wright. If Wright makes a good throw, who knows what happens? Bartolo Colon pitched 2.1 brilliant innings giving up three hits, striking out three batters and….one unearned run that ultimately decided the game.

The Royals dominated Game Two and the Mets dominated Game Three. That brings us to Game Four, where the Mets had a 3-2 lead heading into the eighth inning. Escobar grounded out to lead off the inning which was followed by walks to Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain. Mets manager Terry Collins pulled Tyler Clippard and brought in Jeurys Familia, who is very quietly one of the top three closers in all of baseball. Hosmer was the first batter to face Familia and he chopped a ground ball to Daniel Murphy, who simply missed it. Zobrist scored, Cain went to third and the Royals added two more runs after that. Another error cost the Mets another World Series game.

The next night, Matt Harvey was pitching the game of his life. He won back the city of New York after previous reports about him cutting his season short due to an innings limit after his Tommy John surgery. Collins was going to go to Familia after Harvey came in the dugout after the eighth inning, but Harvey refused to come out of this game. He went back out for the ninth gunning for a complete game shutout to send the series back to Kansas City. Harvey got what he wanted. Mets fans got what they wanted. And the Royals got what they wanted.

After a Lorenzo Cain walk and stolen base, Eric Hosmer drove him in with a double, prompting Collins to bring Familia into the game. Mike Moustakas grounded out, advancing Hosmer to third. Then Familia made an excellent pitch to Salvador Perez; a sinker that jammed him. The ball did not even make it to the infield dirt.

Instinctively, Wright cut the ball off with his momentum taking him toward first base for the easier throw. He looked at Hosmer, who never went back because there was nobody covering third base, shuffling toward home plate instead. After Wright threw the ball across the diamond, Hosmer took off and was out by a mile. With a decent throw, the game was over and the teams are packing their bags for Kansas City. Instead, Lucas Duda’s throw was nowhere near the plate and Hosmer scored the tying run. Another Mets defensive mistake. And while it was not ruled a throwing error on Duda, this miscue ultimately cost the Mets the World Series as the Royals scored five runs in the twelfth to secure their first World Series championship in 30 years.

Mets fans can talk all they want about other events that may have turned the series around. But, as usual, their defense was their Achilles Heel, and it ultimately cost them a World Championship.

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