Baseball can seize the mind and numb it, blurring the line between fantasy and reality. It can accelerate a heartbeat just as quickly as it can stop one. This is the game at its unpredictable best.
For 14 innings of exasperation Tuesday night , the Mets and Royals found themselves captives to this torturous cycle. The game churned. It made heroes out of journeymen. It fried nerves and tested resolve.
Then, in Game 1 of the 111th World Series, it singled out David Wright. The Mets third baseman couldn't handle Alcides Escobar's hot shot, making a throw that sailed wide of the bag. Two batters later, Eric Hosmer lifted a sacrifice fly to right, redemption for an eighth-inning error that changed the course of Game 1. It was to be last in a chain of what appeared to be decisive events in a night shaped by attrition.
Chris Young, the 36-year-old soft-tossing starter, emerged as the winner. He entered in the 12th, working three hitless innings. Bartolo Colon, making his World Series debut at 42, took the loss. In his third inning of relief, he allowed Hosmer's sac fly. It ended a marathon that lasted 5 hours, 19 minutes and sent the Royals spilling from their dugout.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, and the Mets just two outs from a victory, Alex Gordon ensured that the madness would extend to extra innings. His solo shot landed in straightaway centerfield, giving closer Jeurys Familia his first blown save since July 30. It was the first game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth of a World Series game since Scott Brosius did it for the Yankees in 2001.
That drive came after the Mets pushed ahead 4-3 in the eighth inning on Hosmer's momentary transformation into Bill Buckner. When Hosmer attempted a backhand on Wilmer Flores' routine grounder, the ball bounced through. Juan Lagares scored, his reward for grinding out a nine-pitch at-bat, and then swiping second base.
Not since 1986, when Mookie Wilson's grounder got past Buckner, had a player put his team ahead on an error in the eighth inning or later of a World Series game. But even the time warp wasn't enough in a bizarre opening game, one that featured Escobar's inside-the-park homer on the first pitch of the game, and a brief delay in the fourth inning thanks to a sudden broadcast blackout that knocked down the replay system.
Escobar's first-inning drive to Kauffman Stadium's spacious centerfield required a long run for Yoenis Cespedes to make a routine catch. But he misjudged it, overrunning the ball, and leaving him to make a weak backhanded attempt at a knee-high catch.
The ball struck him on his back leg then rolled along the fence, taking off like a bad putt on a slippery green. Escobar buzzed around the bases for the first inside-the-park home run in a World Series since 1929, when Mule Haas of the Philadelphia A's accomplished the feat.
The Mets did not stay down for long, scoring three unanswered runs to take a 3-1 lead against Edinson Volquez, who took the mound shortly after ESPN reported that he learned of his father's death earlier in the day. (The Royals said Volquez was not aware of the report.)
The Mets tied it in the fourth on Travis d'Arnaud's infield single. They pushed ahead in the fifth, going up 2-1 on Curtis Granderson's solo shot, his first homer of the postseason, a solo shot that just cleared the rightfield fence. Michael Conforto tacked on in the sixth by lifting a sac fly to left, deep enough for Cespedes to tag up from third.
Volquez was done after six innings, allowing six hits, holding the Mets to three runs. But he kept the Royals within arm's reach.
Even Harvey couldn't hold off the Royals. At one point, he had retired 11 straight. But he allowed three runs and finished with two strikeouts, equaling his lowest total for any start this season. Of his 80 pitches, Harvey got just six swings and misses.
The Royals sprang to life in the sixth. Back-to-back hits to start the inning put runners on the corners for Hosmer, whose sacrifice fly to center brought the Royals to within one. Two batters later, the Royals closed the gap on Mike Moustakas' single to center, knotting the score at 3-3 and ensuring that the night would have plenty of drama..