Matt Harvey was at 102 pitches and showing no signs of slowing down.
The Citi Field crowd of 44,859 was at full throat, demanding manager Terry Collins stick with the “Dark Knight.” And when Harvey trotted back out to the mound for the ninth inning, the place nearly erupted, believing the Mets — leading 2-0 — were on the verge of sending the series back to Kansas City with Jacob deGrom ready to pitch Game 6.
It would, however, soon get quiet — end-of-the-season quiet. The decision backfired. Harvey couldn’t finish what he started, and the Royals would soon be celebrating their first World Series title in 30 years.
“Obviously, I let my heart get in the way of my gut. I love my players. And I trust them,” Collins said afterwards. “It didn’t work. It was my fault.”
After eight dominant frames of four-hit, one-walk, nine-strikeout ball, Harvey was intent on starting the ninth. He had retired the previous six hitters and was convinced he could finish the shutout.
“You’ve got to let me go out there. This is my night, this is my game!” he told Collins. “I’m fine, you got to let me have this game.”
He wasn’t fine. He walked Lorenzo Cain to start the frame and then allowed an Eric Hosmer’s run-scoring double on his 111th and final pitch of the evening. His night was now done. Closer Jeurys Familia, who had already blown two saves in the series, came in and was unable to escape the frame with the lead.
“I gave it everything I had and I wanted the ball,” said Harvey, who went 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 189.1 innings pitched, in his first season back following Tommy John surgery. “I told [pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] and Terry I wanted the ball.”
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Hosmer came around to score on Salvador Perez’s groundout when Lucas Duda’s throw home was high and wide. In the 12th, the Royals plated five runs against the Mets’ bullpen. Harvey’s start had become an afterthought. The franchise’s first trip to the World Series in 15 years had ended in disappointment.
“Only one team goes home happy and that’s not us,” general manager Sandy Alderson said following the 7-2, 12-inning series-clinching defeat on Nov. 1, 2015.
The gut-wrenching loss was apropos of the frustrating series for the Mets, who held leads in the ninth inning of two games they lost – Game 1 and Game 5 – and had an eighth-inning lead in Game 4. The Royals rallied for victory in all three of those contests, aided by defensive miscues by the Mets in the final two games of the series. Harvey’s best couldn’t stop them.
One or two games go differently, and the Mets may win the series, or at least send it back to Kansas City. Instead, they had to watch the opponent celebrate on their field.
“No lead is safe with these guys,” David Wright said. “You know they are going to make a run. This hurts, there’s no doubt about it. You’re talking about getting close to winning a World Series and that’s everybody in here’s dream, everybody in here’s goal. And then when you fall just short, it’s different emotions.”