You didn’t think they were going to make it easy, did you?
The Mets fans spent the night swirling orange towels and lifting up their Batman masks to show the camera their screaming faces, delighted by strikeouts and weak groundouts, but alas, they had revealed their secret identity.
Up on the mound, the man behind the mask, Matt Harvey, wasn’t the knight of darkness, he was just a very talented but tired pitcher. Syndergaard wasn’t any god of thunder, he was just an extremely promising starter and walking shampoo commercial. David Wright wasn’t Captain America, he was just a weary-eyed veteran, and the leader of the just-fallen-short 2015 New York Mets.
No, despite these Mets’ superhuman abilities, bowling ball curves and thousands of NLDS home runs, to see the true sign of heroes you needn’t look up to the Bat-Signal in the dark New York sky, but down to the letters “D.V.” carved out in the dirt.
This team will be known forever for scratching and clawing in the dirt for everything they got.
Those letters, D.V., of course stood for Daniel Volquez, father of games one and five, starter Edison Volquez, who passed away the opening day of the World Series, and now weighs on the heart of his son. Those letters stood for the incredible emotional fortitude of Edison, and for Connie Moustakas and Charles Young, the respective parents of Royals third baseman, Mike Moustakas and versatile wonder-pitcher Chris Young, who also passed away earlier this year.
The letters stood for the indomitable spirit of the divinely-inspired Royals, who built up and conquered the insurmountable again and again; and, again, tonight they conquered.
For a magical team that seemed to never make it easy on themselves with extra innings and shocking comebacks, they sure made it look easy. They’ve finally reached salvation after wandering the desert for 30 years and getting agonizingly close last year.
Volquez threw a fierce six innings, minimizing the Mets to two runs as he walked off the most meaningful pile of dirt his spikes ever shaped, but Harvey lived up as well, and was more or less cruising through eight innings. But there was Salvador Perez, blowing up exaggerated bubblegum – much like their opponent’s hope – before violently popping it and chewing it up as the Royals would complete their 8th comeback victory of this postseason.
Here’s maybe the most impressive thing in a sea of superlatives we could lay at this Royals team’s feet: down two to nothing to the man they call the Dark Knight going into the ninth, every Royals fan, in one collective breath, genuinely said, “We have them right where we want them.”
Mets manager Terry Collins decided before the ninth that Harvey was done for the night. He was going to his closer, Jeurys Famalia. That is, until Harvey found out, and passionately demanded back in to complete the dominating shutout he had at his fingers.
Collins trusted in his ace, sending him back in, and Harvey fought to carry his team; both were worthy of admiration. But tonight, Harvey’s confidence played out like Greek hubris. If these Mets are heroes, then the Royals have been the Greek gods to enforce their will upon them. Tonight, they certainly punished that hubris.
Lorenzo Cain led off with a hard-earned walk and the last batter Harvey would face, Eric Hosmer, atoned for his earlier error with a corner double, bringing in Cain with no outs. After two groundouts, Hosmer shockingly came home on the most aggressive taking off for home I’ve ever seen. Mets first baseman Lucas Duda seemingly had a good chance to gun down a flying Hosmer after recording the out at first, but his throw home was wide, and Hosmer slid through the most meaningful dirt that has ever stained his uniform, tying the game at 2-2. We had them right where we wanted them.
As we’ve seen, teams cannot hope to match bullpens with these flame-throwing, air-bending, hope-dies-here relievers of Kansas City and the team again came through in extras. In the 12th, eventual World Series MVP Perez set forth the inevitable, leading off with a single and letting well-known speed enthusiast Jarrod Dyson onto the base paths.
Dyson predictably and magically stole second, moved to third on Alex Gordon’s groundout, and crossed the plate as the go-ahead run when deep-bench infielder (and former first round pick) Christian Colon showed off yet another weapon of clutch for this never-say-die team.
After the Royals took that 3-2 lead, Alcides Escobar brought in another with a double down the line, breaking the postseason record for consecutive games with a hit (this was his 15th), and the most ever single postseason hits from the shortstop, topping Derek Jeter’s record of 22 (Escobar hit his 23rd). Cain followed shortly after with a bases clearing double, before turning a 7-2 lead to cyborg Wade Davis, who as usual, dominantly finished the inevitable.
World Series champions.
Similar to the 2004 Red Sox team that broke through decades of championship drought to win the World Series – who laughingly called themselves “a bunch of idiots” – this breakthrough champion Royals team is a bunch of oxymorons. Their low-homerun, low strikeout lineup doesn’t fit in with modern baseball sensibilities, but they conquered. Their built-backwards bullpen then starters pitching firepower doesn’t make a lot of organizational sense, but they conquered. ALCS MVP Escobar is maybe the worst idea for a leadoff hitter, but he sure as hell conquered.
Images of this team will last forever in the annals of baseball, and, more importantly, to both long-suffering diehards and the younger fans filled with the magic of the moment. This is a team you’ll tell your grandkids about, and all their friends whether they like it or not.
I know some clichés are rearing their heads tonight. I hope you’ll forgive me for them… I just can’t stop smiling.