Royals win instant classic Game 1 of the World Series in 14th inning

Jeff Passan
·MLB columnist

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Game 1 of the World Series featured a leadoff inside-the-park home run, a starting pitcher whose father had died earlier in the day, an egregious error reminiscent of the most famous in baseball history, a game-tying, bottom-of-the-ninth-inning home run and an extra-innings, walk-off celebration in a game that tied for the lengthiest in World Series history.

If the rest of the 111th World Series is anything like the first game that started Tuesday and bled into early Wednesday, baseball is in for one hell of a week.

The Kansas City Royals, baseball's comeback kids, saved their most dramatic moments yet for the New York Mets. Eric Hosmer hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded that scored Alcides Escobar after he reached on a David Wright error in the bottom of the 14th inning, propelling the Royals to a frenetic 5-4 victory in front of 40,320 at Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals celebrate after Alcides Escobar (No. 2) scored on a sacrifice fly by Eric Hosmer. (AP)
The Royals celebrate after Alcides Escobar (No. 2) scored on a sacrifice fly by Eric Hosmer. (AP)

They braved five hours, nine minutes of baseball to witness Hosmer's redemption. It came six innings after his brutal error and five innings after Alex Gordon saved him with a 438-foot shot off impregnable closer Jeurys Familia with one out in the bottom of the ninth and Kansas City trailing, 4-3. Familia, who hadn't blown a save since July 30, watched his 97-mph sinker fly into the night and become the first game-tying or go-ahead home run that late in Game 1 of the World Series since Kirk Gibson took Dennis Eckersley deep in 1988.

It wasn't the only time the game mimicked a historic World Series moment. The Mets owned the one-run lead because of a play familiar to them: an error at first base. Hosmer botched an in-between hop on a Wilmer Flores groundball in the eighth inning that scored Juan Lagares and drained the Kauffman crowd. In a play reminiscent of Bill Buckner's infamous error in the 1986 World Series, Hosmer, a two-time Gold Glove winner, was handcuffed by Flores' bouncer and watched it leak into right field. It was the first go-ahead run on an error that late in a World Series game since Buckner's gaffe.

New York had squelched a rally in the bottom of the eighth when, with Ben Zobrist on second base, Lorenzo Cain inexplicably tried to bunt twice and struck out. Hosmer followed with a strikeout, and Familia locked down the final out of the eighth inning before returning in the ninth and looking to squelch Kansas City's home-field advantage.

Then Gordon stepped in. And Wright booted a ball. And Zobrist singled him to third. And the Mets walked the bases loaded. And Hosmer, the face of the franchise, delivered with a fly ball deep enough to right field that even a great throw from Curtis Granderson couldn't cut down Escobar.

And the can't-kill-'em Royals were as alive as ever.

The matchup between Kansas City and New York pitted teams with championship droughts of 30 and 29 years, respectively, and they looked every bit the equal until the uncharacteristic Royals defensive miscue. Kansas City prides itself on its fielding prowess, and it was thought to be a strong advantage going into the series.

New York managed to flip multiple storylines on their heads. While the Royals' ability to make contact is obvious, the Mets swung and missed at just two pitches from Royals starter Edinson Volquez. About 20 minutes before the first pitch, reports from the Dominican Republic said Daniel Volquez, Edinson's father, had died at 63. Whether Volquez was aware of his father's passing was unclear; the Royals said he did not know, while an ESPN report said Volquez learned of it on the way to the stadium.

After cruising through the first two innings, Volquez worked out of a jam in the third before the Mets touched him up for a run on three singles in the fourth. They tacked on another run with a Granderson home run in the fifth and one more in the sixth on a Michael Conforto sacrifice fly to push the Mets ahead, 3-1.

Alex Gordon tied the game with a one-out home run in the ninth inning. (AP)
Alex Gordon tied the game with a one-out home run in the ninth inning. (AP)

At the time, two runs looked like enough for Matt Harvey. The Mets right-hander, one of the team's four standout starting pitchers, had cruised after a bumpy start. On the first pitch the Royals saw, Escobar blasted a dead-red 95-mph fastball from Harvey to left-center field. As Conforto and center fielder Yoenis Cespedes converged, Conforto peeled away and Cespedes didn't reach for the ball. It ricocheted off his left foot, kicked away from both and rolled far enough that Escobar scored without a throw home. It was the first World Series inside-the-park home run since Philadelphia A's center fielder Mule Haas hit one Oct. 12, 1929.

Kansas City scratched back with two runs in the sixth inning. Hosmer's sacrifice fly plated Zobrist, who was on after a leadoff double, and Mike Moustakas laced a two-out single to score Cain and tie the score at 3-3.

All of it set up the antics in the eighth and beyond. The Mets strung together strikeout after strikeout, with Wade Davis, Ryan Madson and Chris Young combining for nine punchouts in the 10th through 13th innings. The Royals, meanwhile, loaded the bases in the 12th inning and put a runner on second in the 13th but couldn't capitalize until Hosmer's heroics.