Bullpen mismanagement, errors, put Mets on brink of elimination
A healthy portion of the sporting world had probably never heard of Daniel Murphy before his improbable October run. He isn't a household name even in baseball circles. Murphy’s six straight Postseason games with a homerun and his absurd line of .529/.556/.1.294 and 1.850 OPS in the NLCS against the Cubs put him on the tip of every sports writer’s pen from New York to Los Angeles. He was another fantastic story about an Average Joe ball player turning into a superstar when the spotlight was the brightest, a story that seems to be commonplace in October.
It was only a matter of time before Murphy’s game came back to the middle, and it came crashing down at the worst time. While Murphy is a good career singles hitter, his downfall is his defense. He was well below average in defensive runs saved above average, ultimate zone rating, and revised zone rating this season and in his career. To put it simply, Murphy struggles getting to well hit ground balls, ultimately leading to runs.
Murphy’s defensive shortcomings were put on display as a high chopping ball from Eric Hosmer ran under his glove, allowing the tying run to score from second with one out in the top of the eighth inning. There is no telling how many Mets fans in Citi Field last night whispered to themselves, “Buckner.”
On the very next play, a hard hit ground ball from Mike Moustakas squirted by a diving Murphy, scoring Lorenzo Cain from third and giving the Royals a lead they would only add to and not relinquish.
The Mets went from five outs away from tying the World Series at two games a piece to being one loss away from losing it. The Murphy error isn’t the sole reason for the Mets’ Game 4 collapse as the bullpen, base running errors, and all around sloppy play proved to be costly, but the picture of Murphy lying face down, flattened by the moment in shallow right field will be the watershed moment. Fair or foul, baseball can be so cruel.
World Series Game 5: Kansas City Royals vs. New York Mets
Time: 8 PM (ET)
Pitching Matchup: Edinson Volquez (1-2, 4.37 ERA) vs. Matt Harvey (2-0, 3.38 ERA)
Three Things to Watch
1. Mound Matchup
The last time Edinson Volquez took the mound was in Game 1, unaware that his father had passed away in his home country of the Dominican Republic. After he was pulled in the sixth inning, Volquez was informed of his father’s passing and caught the first flight home to be with his family. Volquez returned to the Royals on Saturday and was in the dugout to watch his team come back to win Game 4. The uncertainty of Volquez’s performance is to be unexpected, and reasonably so. I would expect Ned Yost to have a quick hook for his starting pitcher if he struggles in the early innings.
In a rematch of Game 1, Matt Harvey will take the hill for the Mets in Game 5. Harvey has alluded to fatigue as a possible factor in his recent performances as he has now thrown over 200 innings this season after missing all of 2014. He was impressive in the first five innings of Game 1 with his club leading 3-1, but surrendered the lead in the sixth after facing the Royals lineup for the third time. Tonight’s start will be the last for Harvey in what has been a tumultuous 2015 for “The Dark Knight.” To save the Mets’ season, Harvey must revert back to the Harvey we saw in 2013, unrelenting and unabashed.
2. Terry Collins
Speaking of facing a lineup for the third time…Terry Collins has completely misused his bullpen in this series and the Mets are paying for it, dearly. In the first two games, Collins allowed his starters to face the top of the Royals’ lineup for the third time in either the fifth or sixth inning, and each game the Royals scored multiple runs. As outstanding as the Mets’ rotation has been this year, their effectiveness has significantly regressed once they face an opposing order twice through.
Collins’ only fault isn’t just leaving his starters in too long, he’s also throwing his best bullpen arms in unnecessary situations. In Game 3, with a six run lead, Collins threw his three best relievers in successive innings. Addison Reed pitched the seventh, Tyler Clippard in the eighth, and Jeurys Familia in the ninth in a game that should have been safe in the hands of John Niese, Bartolo Colon, or Hansel Robles. If Collins was hesitant to put either of these pitchers in with a six-run cushion, then why have them on the roster at all?
After last night’s Game 4 collapse that saw Clippard take the loss after walking the tying and winning runs in the eighth and Familia blowing his second save in the series, Collins now faces the decision of throwing his best bullpen arms for a third straight game, or just hope that Harvey can go all nine innings. One solution, a long shot, would be to throw Jacob deGrom if the situation is dire enough.
3. Royal Resolve
Last October, the Royals were a game away from the first World Series title since 1985, culminating in a Game 7 loss to Madison Bumgarner and San Francisco Giants. Now, with the Mets on their heels, the Royals have three chances to put away the NL champs. Lead by an outstanding defense and a relentless offensive approach, the Royals are primed to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time in thirty years. The only question is where will they celebrate with their champagne showers in Flushing, NY, or sweet home Kansas City?
Game 4’s crushing loss seemed like the end of the line for the Mets. Between Murphys’ error, the imploding bullpen, and the constant aloofness of Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets are going to need a near miracle to crawl back into this series. If Harvey can give Collins seven or more quality innings, the Mets have a decent shot at taking the series back to Kansas City. But with the taste of last year’s World Series loss still driving Ned Yost’s team, look for the Royals to earn their crown tonight at Citi Field.
Prediction: Royals 7, Mets 3
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.