Adam and I were supposed to meet at Foley’s, where we saw the first game of the ALCS, which already seems like a million years ago. It was a place where there were so many Royals fans, where I felt I had allies, where Paul Rudd and Jon Hamm were photographed sitting at the bar together. Did I recall seeing any Mets memorabilia on their walls all those weeks ago? No. But was I looking for any Mets memorabilia at the time? No. Should I now be surprised to see a giant Mets flag hanging outside? I guess not. I’m not sure why I didn’t see being surrounded by Mets fans as an inevitability here in New York City, but it certainly wasn’t part of my plans.
I got to Foley’s before Adam and it was packed, a sea of orange and blue and elbows and knees. My being stopped at the door had nothing to do with my Royals shirt, which was ensconced in several layers of sweaters.
“No room,” said the bouncer. “Gotta get on the waiting list.”
There was another Irish bar down the block that was less of a mosh pit and Adam and I squeezed through the Mets fans to back where we found a table.
And so here we are, in the belly of the beast. It’s the top of the second inning and the first thing I see is Escobar stealing second base. There is a unanimous grumble erupting from the Mets fans. It sounds like the stomachache of a sleeping dragon. I let my cheers bubble in fizz in my own belly and am so, so glad that one of the few things Mets and Royals fans have in common is their blue shirts.
Adam and I give each other conspiratorial smiles. The score is 3 – 2.
Due to all the necessary bar hopping we apparently missed one of the most exciting moments of the game—with Escobar, instead of the pitcher, being at the receiving end of some more first at-bat drama. Replays show him nearly losing his head to a 98 mph fastball from Noah Syndergaard that came high and inside.
Ahead of the game Syndergaard, who seems to be living up to his Viking moniker, had been hinting that he had “a few tricks up his sleeve.”As a baseball neophyte I had no idea what that could possibly mean. Will he be using a lazer pen to distract batters? Will he have pine tar up his sleeve? Did he choreograph a dance to rival Johnny Cueto’s shimmy?
It turned out what Syndergaard had in mind was a lot more boring than anything I could have come up with. A “statement pitch” is what the commentators called it. Luckily the statement didn’t cave in Escobar’s head.
The Royals stay up, but only briefly. After a two-run homerun by Granderson in the Mets lead 4 – 3, and now, in the fourth inning, they have two men on base and no outs.
Anyone who saw Ventura pitch in the World Series last year knows what he is capable of. His stellar pitching in the World Series last year helped keep the Royals alive to reach Game 7. But his great pitching performances last year were at home, and now he’s pitching in front of 44,781 World Series starved Mets fans—and every other one of them seems to be a famous person. This is on top of the fact that Billy Freaking Joel sang the national anthem.
“Hey look, it’s Seinfeld!” Says Adam. “Oh! And Chris Rock!”
Ventura is pulled from the game after another guy singles and scores in a runner. Now the Mets lead 5 – 3, and the Royals bullpen must carry the game on their shoulders again. Duffy got the Royals out of the fourth inning and Hochevar pitches a clean fifth inning, and now we’re at the bottom of the sixth.
Much is said of the Royals’ vaunted bullpen, but no one talks about the guy who is up to pitch next: Franklin Morales. The last time this guy pitched was in the 14 – 2 blowout that the Royals won in Toronto, and before that was the 11 – 8 blowout the Blue Jays won in Toronto. He’s the guy that comes out when the Royals are either losing really hard or winning really hard. He’s not a changer of fate. He is the wood pulp in your parmesan, the yoga mat fiber in your Subway sandwich. He’s the guy you put in when you need to get through a full game and the outcome has already been determined. Even though the game is tight by Kansas City standards and there’s still lots of it left, I feel like Yost has conceded the whole thing when Morales comes to the mound.
In a way I get it, you don’t want to give the Mets too many looks at your game-changing pitchers. But this is also the World Series! You never know how things are going to turn out! You really, really don’t know if Cueto is going to pitch an entire, nearly scoreless game again, and you really, really don’t know how Volquez is going to pitch after his dad died. And you don’t know if the Dark Knight or the DeGrominator will start pitching like the playthings of the gods that everyone says they are. And do we really want to find out?
The inning starts decently enough with Morales getting the first batter out, but Lagares, the author of the epic battle against Herrera in Game 1 that turned the game briefly in the Mets favor, delivers a single. Up next is Flores, whom Morales promptly hits with the baseball. The Mets fans around me are booing and hissing, but soon they are cheering because some random pinch hitter singles, scoring in Lagares. And the bleeding does not stop. Granderson hits a liner towards Morales, who scoops it deftly enough, but doesn’t know what to do next. He can’t seem to get rid of the ball. He stares at Flores, halting him at third, but then pivots his body from second to third and back again, kind of like a basketball player trying to shake the defense and even more like someone who has forgotten who they are, where they are, what they are supposed to be doing and how to breathe. He could have helped turn a double play, but instead the ball never leaves his hand.
“Yikes,” says Adam.
“Oh man.” I almost bury my face in my hands, but one who is in the belly of the beast must keep her sorrows to herself. The whole thing is entertaining for the Mets fans, though.
“It’s like the Three Stooges!” I hear someone say.
While I think forcing Morales to buckle down and scrape his way out of the inning in front of a hostile crowd would be a good character building experience, Yost is not in the habit of torturing his players and brings out Herrera to pick up the broken pieces, which is in itself a different kind of torture. Herrera is not good at dealing with other people’s messes. He’s great at keeping the bases clean during his innings, but dealing with inherited runners is not his forte. I’m not nervous though. The Mets already have this game in the bag. I have truly accepted it, and I know I’m not lying to myself because I order an entire shepherd’s pie and eat it without any help from Adam even though he offers it once or twice or three times.
Next up at bat is David Wright, Captain America, longstanding hero to Mets fans. He had a hard time against the Royals pitchers’ fastballs in the first couple games, but tonight has been his big night. He hit a two-run homerun in the first inning, and now he has another chance to perform in front of an adoring audience.
And perform he does, hitting a single to center field. Two runs score. The crowd’s eruption of joy ricochets off the walls and pummels my soul. I hope my sigh of resignation is interpreted as a sigh of relief.
“Hey, it’s only the sixth inning!” Adam says.
“Yeah. Whatever. We don’t need to win this one.”
The inning comes to a merciful end after Herrera gets Cespedes to fly out and Duda to strike out, there is no offensive action from the Royals.
“Hey, there’s still six outs left!” says Adam after that the seventh inning ends with more of nothing.
But six outs turns into three, which turns into none, which turns into a Mets victory.