It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to writing about Game 5. It would have been hard to write about if I watched the game on television, but it’s even harder because I was there at Citi Field. Do I start with the moment I got my ticket or the moment I started thinking about getting my ticket? Because that would start with Zack texting me early in the morning to see if I had bought my ticket to the game yet, as if it were a foregone conclusion.
“Well, my friend Garrett bought plane tickets from Kansas City last night after they won last night, so…”
So what was my excuse? “Well, isn’t it really expensive?”
“Prices have dropped because the Mets fans don’t want to see them lose.”
Game 6 and 7 are in Kansas City, but if people there are coming here to see Game 5, that could only mean that the Royals were going to win it now and that I had to be there. I thought about my dream, the one I had way back during the ALDS. There was the stadium full of people in orange. They were cheering. There was a man on first. Someone named Flowers, whom can only be the Mets’ Flores, is at bat. The question is, did he strike out or did he hit a home run? After the at-bat I was sad. Was I sad because I was with the people in orange? Was I sad because this was not me at all in the dream? Was I somewhere else celebrating a World Series victory?
I went to StubHub. Zack was right, prices dropped. My roommates, who were cheering for the Mets, were complicit in my getting the ticket.
“You’ll be kicking yourself if they win and you’re not there,” they said. Then they lent me a computer and a printer for the ticket, which I still have. For the rest of day I walked around with the World Series ticket in my purse, thundering like a telltale heart every time I passed a Mets fan.
But I won’t start there either, or the ride on the train packed with Mets fans, or the wait in line to get into Citi Field hoping to spot some Royals fans. There were many people like me who were flying solo. I scanned the concourse thinking, but not knowing, that some of these faces were ones I knew. Was that my sister’s friend’s mom? The waiter that works at Bella Napoli’s? As customer from the Dime Store, where I used to work? A guy I bumped into in the mosh pit at El Torreon? Someone I was in a high school play with? Probably not, but there was a sense that I was wading through my past, if not mostly because the last time I was surrounded by this many Royals fans was a long, long, time ago.
Before the game even started I recognized someone I really did know—someone from grade school. I’ll call her Sarah. She was a grade above me but we had recess and lunch together. She was there with her older brother, who I’ll call Matt. They adopted me for the game. But I can’t start this story there, or even a few innings from there, when we were adopted by a Mets employee that Matt’s friend’s friend knew, and we got to sit in the Caesar’s Club in the second level with the season ticket holders, where an attendant named Sal, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge with Tony Bennett, gave us cream puffs from a bakery in Astoria.
It’d be nice to start at the sixth inning, when Edinson Volquez made the best of a bases loaded situation and an error by Eric Hosmer (Is it now part of Royals dogma that when bad things happen to Eric Hosmer good things happen to the Royals? Or is it just the Universe balancing itself?) and got out of the game with just one run scored by the Mets. His performance did not earn as much hype as Harvey’s, but he got his job done—which was to keep the game close. Harvey, with all his brilliance, did not.
This story starts in the ninth inning, when Cain was walked. That was the end product of a chain of events that had been set off earlier, when Cain struck out twice. The Internet has all types of ways you can re-watch games. There’s versions where someone has filmed the game as it streamed from their television screen, there’s versions with Japanese subtitles, versions of the whole damn game that you can watch, there’s the highlight reels and then there’s the condensed versions which are like the highlight reel, but more extensive and without any commentary. Included are key moments and slow motion replays of the key moments. I don’t know who does these things, but it’s surely someone with a keen sense of narrative arc and plot twist. In the condensed version of Game 5 they found it prudent to show, in slow motion, each third strike in Cain’s at-bats. These were pitches below the knees that would have been balls had Cain not been fooled and swung at them. This time Cain put the brakes on his swing and earned himself a stroll to first after being 0 – 2.
Ecstatic Royals fans who knew the script by now waited for Cain, grand larcenist extraordinaire, to steal second. Mets fans knew the script by now, too. Up until now it had been the Church of Harvey, and the congregants had been standing and chanting his name for hours. But the walk drew swears from the crowd and put bottoms on their seats. There had been no doubt in Mets fans minds whom they wanted to see pitch in the ninth. Harvey’s performance had been dominant all night, so much so that fans started uttering another name alongside his: Madison Bumgarner. Would he be this year’s Madison Bumgarneresque foe? But towards the eighth inning the whisper of Bumgarner soon faded and only one name could be heard from the fans, not one of who was sitting.
“HAHVEY! HAHVEY! HAHVEY!”
Not Harvey, but Hahvey, in case you forgot this was New York City. Pretty soon their battle cry was the only thing I could hear, over my own thoughts and beating heart. He was not the Dark Knight anymore, he was their gladiator and this was their coliseum.
“They can’t put him in, it would be crazy to put him in,” we told each other. He still had to deal with the top of the order—it would have been their fourth time seeing him.
“Nah, they won’t do that,” Matt’s friend’s friend agreed.
But he did come out—no he charged out, sprinting towards the mound as if it were a clutch of barbarian warriors from Gaul. The crowd went wild.
Wow, they just jinxed themselves, was all I could think. We exchanged looks of incredulity. It was the best thing that could have happened. Harvey’s mind and body were out of sync with the game. He acted like he had already won. It’s as if he forgot he had gone to the mound to make three more outs. When Harvey realized he had work to do it would be too late; his mind and body had already moved on.
But back to Cain and the silence at Citi Field. This was the rally we were waiting for, but we allowed room for failure, not doing so would be tantamount to jinxing the whole thing. Cain did his dance at first and gave himself a big lead—not sure quite how big without Joe Buck to say, but it was a lead big enough to be a parking spot in New York City. All 44,000 of us of us in the stadium waited with bated breath. Mets fans and Royals fans alike were no longer looking at Harvey, they were looking at the dance at first. Cain did not dance for long before tearing towards second—there was no stopping him. It was already written.
Now it was Royals fans’ turn to erupt in cheers. Our scattered but substantial numbers could be heard throughout the stadium and we directed our attention to Hosmer. It was his turn to make something happen. I don’t know what I would have been thinking in his place. Did he utter words to a benevolent God? Was he praying a prayer of the penitent? Dear God, forgive me of my blunder, deliver me from erring?
I don’t know. When I saw a ball fly into the gap in left field I knew this was it. This was the rally, and if this was the rally, this was also the game. Cain raced home and Hosmer put on the brakes at second.
Terry Collins took Harvey out. The Mets gave him an ovation. His stunning performance was only marred by his stunning arrogance. He believed in himself, but not so much in his team. He still managed to author eight great chapters for Mets fans.
Those same fans kept standing in anticipation of Familia, and our view of most of right field and most of the infield was blocked by backs and heads. Moose’s job was to move Hosmer to third, which is exactly what he did with a grounder to first.
Next came Perez, who I saw through a gap between one man’s hear and another man’s chin. I saw that he hit the ball and started cheering. I had no idea where the ball went. I was cheering in blind faith. If the ball is put in play the Royals will score, that’s how the script went. From the reaction of Mets fans I could tell my cheers were not unfounded. The scoreboard told me so as well. It had changed from 2 – 2 as quickly had it had changed to 2 – 1 from 2 – 0. The despairing Mets fans sat down and I saw that the Royals had been erased from the bases. Where was Salvy? I looked and saw the Royals had two outs, but how did Hosmer score if Salvy hadn’t singled? Did he hit a sacrifice fly?
Sarah, Matt and I were confused. What happened? We ran from our posts and joined another group of standing-room-only Royals fans that had crowded under the television to see a replay.
What I thought was a long-hit single to left field was only a little blooper quickly fielded by David Wright. So the inning must be over and Alex Gordon singled Hosmer home? Did we somehow miss two at-bats? Did someone mess up the scoreboard? We were still scratching our heads when we saw Hosmer pelting helter skelter towards home from third like there was a pack of hellhounds nipping at his heels. It was now unclear who he had been praying to during his at-bat because this was the kind of desperate act that only a man who had sold his soul to the devil would ever consider doing. We saw Duda catching Wright’s throw, getting Salvy out. All commonplace, all according to procedure. We waited for Duda to drop the ball, or pass out, or spontaneously combust, anything that would explain the tie, because unless you’re Jerrod Dyson you just don’t score from third on ball that doesn’t even make it past the infield.
Then Duda threw home. Great, I thought. These Mets fans should start getting happy real quick. But the throw was wide and high, like the 18-wheeler that Mets fans felt like they had been collectively struck by. The Mets catcher nicked the ball with his glove but was nowhere near catching it. Hosmer slid home.
Matt doubled over in joy, I grabbed my face, Sarah shook her head, we all hugged. When I tried to talk I sound like a broken record. I just cant. Holy shit. Wow. I just cant. Holy shit. Wow.
In retrospect, Hosmer’s explanation for running when he did makes total sense. We were up two games, Familia is hard to hit, and the scouts said Wright has a slow throw and Duda is not clutch in clutch situations. Plus there’s always that memory of Alex Gordon being stuck at third. No one wants to get stuck there anymore (Which begs the question, just what would have happened if Gordon ran?). But it would have been awful leaving that stadium that night if Hosmer had gotten out.
The Mets fans were reeling. Some of them started leaving so we grab seats and sit for the first time—as if the game were just starting and we were strolling in during the first inning. Sitting was nice. But sometimes we stood, just to shake away the jitters. We hated that the Mets were last to bat because if they scored a run that would be it.
The Mets fans stayed seated and would not stand again until the twelfth inning, when they started leaving. Herrera made a heroic effort, pitching three clean innings of relief, and Hochevar followed with two. November 1st turned into November 2nd and three outs in the ninth turned into twelve outs and extra innings and lemons turned into lemonade.
The twelfth inning brought a new pitcher, Addison Reed. Salvy singled and we knew this could be the last inning. Our hunch was validated when Yost unleashed Jerrod Dyson to blaze a path to victory. Dyson danced a little at first with Alex Gordon batting before dashing off to the races and sliding into second. Mets fans shook their heads, some started heading up the stairs and out of the stadium. Harvey and his exploits seemed like such a long time ago. Gordon got out but advanced Dyson to third. Everything in its right place, but wait, who’s batting next? Who could it be? What is going on? Who is this guy? We did not know. It was not a body or number or face we had seen the entire postseason.
It was Christian Colón, who had not had an at-bat since the end of the regular season. Having him bat would be either a stroke of brilliance or a monumental blunder on Yost’s part, but really, what were the options? It was Colón’s only at-bat so he had to make it count. And make it count he did. He ripped a single to center field and Dyson charged home. And then it rained Royals. It rained so hard the Royals scored five runs in one inning. The game only needed Wade Davis to punctuate it.
He struck out the first two batters, but Conforto got a hit. There was a man on, and who but Wilmer Flores came up to bat. At this point I didn’t care about my dream. We were going to win whether Flores struck out or hit a grand slam. But he struck out and we won the World Series and I was there to see it.