When the Mets were last in the World Series, in 2000, they entered the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 1 at Yankee Stadium with a 3-2 lead.
The inning began with Armando Benitez walking Paul O’Neill, who later came in to score on a Chuck Knoblauch sacrifice fly to tie the game. The Yankees went on to win it in the 12th on a Jose Vizcaino RBI single.
That set a tone for the Subway Series, and the Yankees rolled to win it in five games.
Fast forward 15 years to Game 1 of this year’s World Series on Tuesday night in Kansas City.
The Mets took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning with their stalwart closer Jeurys Familia on the mound.
Familia had not blown a save since July 30, when he gave up the home run to San Diego’s Justin Upton that gave the Padres the lead on that crazy, rainy Thursday afternoon.
Familia got the first out of the night, and then Alex Gordon unleashed a blast to deep center to tie it at 4.
Mets Manager Terry Collins said of how stunning was it to see that home run in the 9th, “One thing, he (Familia) doesn’t give up home runs. So we were all shocked by it. We liked where we were at.
“Their team, one of the things we know about them is they’re never down and out. We’ve got to put them away. We’ve got to do a better job. Certainly tomorrow night in the same situation, he’ll be back out there,” said Collins.
Gordon said of facing Familia, “Never saw him before, knew he was really good. Definitely wasn’t trying to do that against him. Great sinker, so I wanted to be ready for it.
“The at-bat before with Salvy (Salvador Perez), I saw him quick pitch. I wasn’t expecting that and I wanted to make sure when I got on the box 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,” said Gordon.
On how tough it was that for that at-bat to be quick pitched, Gordon said, “It’s part of the game. A lot of guys do it now. You’ve just got to understand with the scouting reports you’ve got to know that a pitcher does that. Luckily I didn’t know it, but I saw it with Salvy.
“And when I got up there I usually like to get loose, but I got ready right away just to make sure. With nobody on, it’s part of baseball. So they’re trying to get you out any way that they can. We’ve got a guy that does it, too, with (Johnny) Cueto. It works both ways, and you’ve just got to be ready for it,” Gordon said.
Royals Manager Ned Yost said of Gordon’s home run, “You know, you get in that situation with Familia on the mound, you know how good he can be. Gordy hit one about as good as he can hit it to tie the ballgame up, and we just kept battling from that point on.”
The Mets never really got a big scoring chance in extra innings, as their bats were silenced by Chris Young.
The marathon went into the 14th inning, which began with a David Wright throwing error that allowed Alcides Escobar to reach base. Escobar scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Eric Hosmer.
The Royals have the experience of being here, having lost a heartbreaking seven-game series to the San Francisco Giants last season.
The ability of the Royals to pull out a game like this, as they have other times in this postseason, shows that they are the biggest test the Mets have faced in this postseason run.
Gordon said of being surprised, at this point, with the way they always seem to find a way to pull out a big win, “I mean, not really. I’ll tell you, we never get frustrated or hang our heads when we’re down. We always feel like we can come back and either make it a game or win the game. I think that speaks for our team chemistry that we all pull together and we’re all fighting for one thing, and that’s to get the W, and hopefully that shows when we go out there and play. I think it does.”
Yost said of the game, “It was a great night. Two things you don’t want in Game 1 of the World Series: One is to go 14 innings and the other is to lose. To find a way to grind that way out against a great team, both teams were matching pitch for pitch. We had opportunities, they’d make big pitches and get out of innings. But to grind through that game and to win it in the 14th inning was big.”
Collins said of the feeling of the Mets after the game, “Well, we’re frustrated. We didn’t have a lot of opportunities, but we had a few shots. But we got the lead and we lost it, we came back and got the lead again. And we know their bullpen is really good. And of course, Chris Young was outstanding at the end of the game.”