NEW YORK — The Royals were on the ropes. Again. Their manhood was challenged and they had all of New York City taunting them and laughing at them. The World Series momentum had shifted in favor of the Mets and it looked like the Series was going to be knotted, 2-2.
So what did the Royals do?
They came back swinging and exposed the Mets defense and bullpen. Kansas City's relentless lineup recovered from a 3-1 deficit with a run in the sixth and three more in the eighth to beat the Mets, 5-3, and take a commanding 3-1 Series lead into Sunday's World Series Game 5.
After being denied by Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants last year, the Royals are on the brink of their first world championship sinice 1985.
"They truly don't ever stop,''' said Mets manager Terry Collins. "They do a lot of things, putting the ball in play. You have to make pitches and you can't give them extra outs.''
It was a nice answer for a team that was angered by Mets rookie Noah Syndergaard's tower-buzzing heater that sailed over the head of Alcides Escobar to start Game 3 Friday. The Mets went on to rout KC in that game and the Royals vowed revenge. They wound up getting their pound of flesh — not by throwing at New York hitters — but by doing what they do best: putting the ball in play and firing up the game's best bullpen. This is why the Royals are 21-9 in postseason play the last two seasons.
The Royals were on the brink of elimination in the ALDS, but recovered with a stunnning late-game rally against the Astros.
Saturday night in Queens they trailed 3-2 in the eighth when the wheels fell off the Mets wagon. After New York reliever Tyler Clippard walked two hitters with one out, Collins summoned closer Jeurys Familia for a five-out save.
Familia, it turns out, is no Wade Davis.
Ever-clutch Eric Hosmer (wish he could have played for the Hosmer Chiefs) was first to face Familia and he hit a slow chopper toward Daniel Murphy, New York's slugging second baseman. Murph charged the ball and had only one play: first base. But he never gloved the ball. It slipped past him, Buckner-style, and the jailbreak was on. Ben Zobrist scored the tying run on the error and then back-to-back singles by Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez pushed across two more runs.
It was sweet revenge for Moustakas who was incensed Friday when Syndergaard put Escobar on his back.
"The whole team was pretty upset,'' Moustakas said Friday. "All 25 guys were fired up. We didn't need a shot of adrenaline.''
Kansas City manager Ned Yost said, "I didn't expect him to throw a strike, but I didn't expect him to throw it under his chin, either. If you're trying to do it, that's not right. It's not acceptable. You can end a player's career.''
Escobar was still steamed before Saturday's game and said, "We'll send a message back, don't worry.''
Yost promised "no carryover" from Friday's dust-up, but said, "Our players always find a way to get fired up and take care of it on the field, not by throwing at people. We've got a few tricks up our sleeve, too.''
The "tricks" turned out to be the same Royals stuff we've been seeing for two years: they put the bat on the ball and they have a dominant bullpen. The Royals now have three chances to close out the World Series, starting tonight when they face Dark Knight Matt Harvey.
"We feel like if we can keep the game close, our bullpen will do the job,'' said Yost. "What they did tonight if what they have been doing. I don't think there was any point tonight when they thought they were going to lose. It's experience, character, and a group of talented players. These guys are totally confident in their abilities. They never panic. It's fun to sit there and be the manager of that group.''
Folks in New York are stunned. They thought they had the Royals on the run after Friday night's victory and the Royals lack of response.
"We're not dead yet,'' said Collins.
Swell. But Murphy and Familia are two Mets who have failed loudly in this series. After hitting home runs in six consecutive postseason games and copping the MVP in the NLCS, Murphy has been smothered by the Royals (.176, three singles). His eighth-inning error was the talk of the 7 Train.
Familia is a mess. The young closer, blew a save in Game 1, surrendering a game-tying homer in the ninth. The hits he surrendered to Moustakas and Perez Saturday were loud and costly.
The Royals let it get away from them last year. It doesn't look like they're going to let that happen again.