Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Comebacks And An Early Morning Walk Off

The Royals and Mets displayed what can happen in a game when both great plays and blunders are made throughout the night. The contest, stretching into the early morning hours, was the longest game one in World Series history and from the beginning demonstrated just how evenly matched these two teams really are. However, it can be best summed up by the fast that Royals First Baseman went from scape goat to hero in the span of a single game. Given the heart that both squads showed last night, this is surely going to be a series etched in the long history of the grand game that is baseball.

Royals Outlast Mets 5-4
It was arguably one of the most pulsating, tense and unforgettable Game 1s in World Series history. From the moment of the first pitch, when Royals starter Edinson Volquez began hurling two-seam fastballs unaware of the tragic news that awaited him after the game, that his father had passed away earlier in the day, to the Bill Bucknerish boot by Royals Gold Glove first baseman Eric Hosmer that gave the Mets a one-run lead in the eighth, to the dramatic game-tying homer by Alex Gordon in the ninth, and finally to Hosmer's redemption, a game-winning sacrifice fly in the 14th, it was all there. A night packed with drama. And in the end, in what matched for the third time the longest game in World Series history, the Royals survived, 5-4, in a Tuesday game that lasted five hours and nine minutes, stretching into Wednesday morning. Long before it ended, though, there was Volquez pitching his heart out for six strong innings before having that same heart broken upon hearing the news in the clubhouse from his wife that his father, Daniel, had died from heart complications at the age of 63 earlier in the day. Most of the players found out in a text from Volquez after the game had ended, a text that thanked his teammates for winning. It was the third parent of a Kansas City player who has passed away this season. "Just another angel above looking out for us," Hosmer said. And now, just like they have done all season, the Royals will band as brothers and carry on. On short rest, both teams will march back to Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday for Game 2 of the best-of-seven Series. "Just trying to put the ball in play, trying to get that run in," said Hosmer about his walk-off sac fly. "The bullpen, the way they shut it down for us right there, as an offense we had to do something. "Obviously, I wanted to redeem myself for what happened earlier. That's the beauty of this game, you always get a chance to redeem yourself. I just can't thank my teammates enough, [Gordon] and everybody picking me up right there and giving me another opportunity." Gordon smashed a one-out homer in the bottom of the ninth off Mets closer Jeurys Familia, tying the score at 4. It was Familia's first blown save since July 30. "Never saw him before, but I knew he was really good," Gordon said. "Definitely wasn't trying to do that against him. Great sinker, so I wanted to be ready for it. "The at-bat before with [Salvador Perez], I saw him quick pitch. I wasn't expecting that, and I wanted to make sure when I got in the box that I was ready to hit. And he tried to quick pitch me and left the ball right there to hit, and with a guy like that, you can't miss pitches that he gives you to hit. And that's what happened." Chris Young earned the win with three shutout innings of relief. Young had been slated to start Game 4, leaving his status for the start unknown. "I was just ready, whatever the team needs," Young said. "That's been my role all season, whether it's starting or relieving, just trying to help this team win. "What a great game. The Mets are a tough team. We've got our work cut out for us, but tonight was huge. Home run by Alex Gordon, and then the character, the fight, to find a way to win late, that's a great team effort." Alcides Escobar, who hit an inside-the-park homer to lead off the Royals' first, led off the 14th by reaching on third baseman David Wright's error. After Ben Zobrist singled Escobar to third and Lorenzo Cain was walked intentionally, Hosmer sent a Bartolo Colon pitch just deep enough to right to score Escobar. The 14 innings matched the longest World Series game in history, and was the longest for a Game 1. "That's a beautiful thing about the game in general, that you can have a tough loss like this today and bounce back tomorrow and hopefully get the 'W'," said Wright. The Mets had taken a 4-3 lead when Wilmer Flores sent a two-out bouncer that eluded Hosmer, a Gold Glove first baseman, in the eighth inning, allowing Juan Lagares to score from second base. Lagares had singled and stole second. His run was the first go-ahead run to score on an error in the eighth inning or later of a World Series game since Boston first baseman Bill Buckner's error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series against the Mets. Matt Harvey started for the Mets on Tuesday and pitched six innings, giving up five hits and three runs. Volquez also threw six innings for the Royals and gave up six hits and three runs. He was watching video in Kansas City's video room when he was alerted by a club official that his wife was waiting for him in the clubhouse. That's when Volquez was told that his father had passed. "It's the third brother in this room that has lost a parent this season," pitcher Jeremy Guthrie said. "That just doesn't happen." Mike Moustakas lost his mother, Connie, earlier this season, and Young lost his father, Charles, less than a month ago. "It's really difficult to talk to anyone about it," Young said. "I know what he is going through tonight. I just feel so sorry for him."


World Series
Kansas City Leads Series 1-0
New York at Kansas City
Game 2: Wednesday, October 28, at 8:00 PM


New GM Sets Goals – Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and the rest of the baseball operations department are in Clearwater, Fla., this week for their organizational meetings. Klentak is likely to discuss his five elements to rebuilding the Phillies, who finished this season with the worst record in baseball. He laid out those elements in his introductory news conference Monday morning at Citizens Bank Park: 1. Discipline. "We have to understand who we are, who we want to be and how we are going to get there. Once we set that road map, we are going to follow it and be disciplined on how we follow it," he said. 2. Connectivity. "In process of all areas of baseball operations, we will be connected," he said. "We will work together. We will have a process for everything that we do. And we will not veer off course." 3. Information. "I know this is an important one," he said. "We want to be the best at everything that we do. We want to have the best scouts in the field, the best coaches, the best players -- and we will. And we will use every form of technology and information available to us to be at the forefront of information in this industry. And how we manage that will be the key. We want to take the information from all the different people and marry that into our process. How we do that will determine our fate. If we have the best information, we will make the best decisions." 4. Culture. "One thing I know is that we can't force culture, but we can build an environment that allows our players to succeed -- to play loose and play confidently. We will create an environment that allows our players to get better and allows the Phillies to win a lot of baseball games." 5. Winning. "If we are successful in those first four points, we will do a lot of winning," he said. "Winning is the fifth point I wanted to make. That is ultimately what this is all about. You know that and I know that. Philadelphia knows that. That's why I'm here. I would not have left Mike Trout in his prime to come here if I didn't believe that -- I promise you that. I look forward to contributing and helping this franchise get back to its winning ways."

The Changing Front Office – Things are changing for the Phillies. John Middleton's visibility over the past four months is perhaps the greatest indicator of that. Ownership remained in the background for years, even to the point the Phillies had no information about it in their media guide. But Middleton, one of the club's partners, made the announcement in June that Andy MacPhail would replace Pat Gillick as team president after the season. He and MacPhail held a news conference last month, when they announced Ruben Amaro Jr. would not return as general manager. He sat on the dais again Monday, when the team introduced Matt Klentak as the next Phillies' GM. Middlelton has a clear vision about where he wants the Phillies to go in the future. "One of the criticisms the fans have leveled on the Phillies, and I think it's justifiable, is that we didn't recognize early enough and act upon that recognition that the window had closed and we needed to move on," Middleton said. "That we were trying to extend guys that were older and trying to create a bridge, and we needed to realize that the bridge didn't exist and we needed to move on." Perhaps the Phillies were too sentimental and nostalgic about the core that helped the club win the 2008 World Series and five National League East championships from 2007-11? "The word that Andy has talked about and the word Matt has talked about today is 'discipline,'" Middleton said. "So I think you're right. I think you have to have a goal and you have to have a road map to achieve it, and you have to be disciplined to know where you are on that road and therefore use that to dictate your decisions and what you do. That's what I think is going to be the key to success. The other part of this is being objective about yourself and your performances." Middleton noted how the Phillies had perhaps the best Drafts in baseball from 1995-04, but arguably the least productive Drafts from 2005 until recently, based on WAR. He said the Phillies did not use analytics like other teams, which contributed to their fall. Asked if the Phillies were late to the analytics party, Middleton's eyes widened and he shook his head like the question was too obvious to even answer. "Yeah," he said. But why were they late to the party? "It is kind of a cultural thing," Middleton said. "It's just the way people viewed their jobs." Now the Phillies are trying to catch up. Middleton and the Phillies intend to make sure it happens. "It's like Alice in Wonderland," he said. "You keep running faster and faster and stay in the same place. ... So the teams that are ahead of us, they're not sitting still. The aggressive ones are trying to improve and get better. We have to run faster and faster." The Phillies of the past talked about winning being cyclical. Organizations will have good runs. They will have bad runs. Middleton sees things differently. "Our objective is to challenge that," he said. "If you look at St. Louis, they found a way to sustain it. And if St. Louis thinks they're cycling down, if you look at their down years, their down years aren't our down years. So we need to figure out what they're doing, so if they're not in the playoffs or if they're not a legitimate contender going into a season, how do they stay up at a higher level of being down than we have?" Middleton understands the allure of building via free agency, but he looks at teams like the Cardinals, Astros and Cubs, and how they built from within, while also augmenting with outside talent. He thinks that is how they should model themselves. "I don't think you can buy a winner," he said. " … You have to build sports teams. Specifically, you have to build baseball teams from the ground up." Middleton believes MacPhail and Klentak are the team to do it.

Who’s On First? – Phillies manager Pete Mackanin only needs a first-base coach at this point. He announced Tuesday that Larry Bowa and Juan Samuel have agreed to contracts through the 2016 season. Bowa will return as the Phillies' bench coach, while Samuel will be the third-base coach. Bowa had been a candidate for the Marlins' managerial vacancy, but that job could be headed to Don Mattingly. The team announced last week that Rick Kranitz and John McLaren will be the bullpen coach and catching coach, respectively. Hitting coach Steve Henderson and pitching coach Bob McClure previously agreed to contracts for next season. The Phillies will not have an assistant hitting coach, like they had the previous three seasons. They still need a first-base coach, who could be hired after this week's organizational meetings in Clearwater, Fla.

The Phillies finally put an end to the season finishing in last place in the NL East with a record of 63-99. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances, this has ended up being one of the worst seasons in franchise history! However, there are some former Phillies still making headlines in the playoffs this year.

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