The box score says that the Mets lost Game 1 of the World Series in 14 innings, but I think they lost the game after Matt Harvey’s first pitch.
It was widely publicized before the World Series that Kansas City’s leadoff man, ALCS MVP Alcides Escobar, excels at jumping on the first pitch. He swings at the first offering about a third of the time, and had a .364 batting average this season when he put the first pitch in play. “If [the pitcher] continues to throw a first-pitch strike, I’ll continue to swing the bat,” Escobar told the Dallas Morning News during the ALCS. “My hitting coach tells me: continue to swing the bat. If they throw a strike, swing,” Escobar told the New York Times just a couple of weeks ago. A simple Google search revealed what the Mets’ gameplan should be against Escobar.
Yet Harvey threw him a fastball down the heart of the plate to start the bottom of the first and Escobar teed off. It was hit to deep left-center and CF Yoenis Cespedes let the ball bounce off his leg and carom to the wall, which allowed Escobar to circle the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
It’s not that Cespedes is a bad fielder, but with his shoulder probably still ailing after tweaking it in Game 4 of the NLCS and Gold Glove CF Juan Lagares available, it seems that Terry Collins got stuck in his ways again and made a big mistake with his lineup card. Collins could have let Michael Conforto bat DH instead of playing left field, as Collins is wont to sub him out for Lagares for defensive purposes late in games, as he did on Tuesday night. Kelly Johnson’s bat isn’t so lethal that he had to be included in the lineup as the DH at the expense of Lagares. That was evident as Johnson was lucky to be hit with a pitch on an 0-2 count, then grounded out in his only two ABs. Michael Cuddyer, who looks hopelessly lost at the plate, took over at DH in the seventh inning and was allowed to fan three times before finally being lifted for Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the 13th inning. It’s worth noting that Nieuwenhuis was the Mets’ last available outfielder, so if anyone got hurt in the outfield he would’ve had to substitute and the Mets would’ve lost their DH spot.
Speaking of Collins being stuck in his ways, his decision to bring in Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning after Addison Reed pitched a spotless and stress-free seventh was another blunder. Clippard’s numbers this postseason speak for themselves; a 5.06 ERA in 5.1 innings, with a WHIP of 1.50. At this point, he can’t be trusted to preserve a one-run lead late in games. Late-innings leads are all the more vital against the Royals, whose fearsome bullpen allowed just one run in eight innings in Game 1.
Critical mistakes in gameplanning and strategy allowed the Royals to sneak away with a win. The good news? The Mets still have time to correct those mistakes and win this series.