NEW YORK — The Kansas City Royals keep finding new ways to win this October. And now with one more victory in November, they will be World Series champions.
Second baseman Daniel Murphy’s error on Eric Hosmer’s grounder in the eighth inning keyed yet another comeback for the tenacious Royals, and Kansas City startled the New York Mets 5-3 Saturday night to take 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.
Edinson Volquez returned Saturday from his father’s funeral in the Dominican Republic and can pitch the Royals to their first crown in 30 years. He faces Matt Harvey in a rematch of Game 1, when Volquez went six innings just hours after his dad died.
“What they did tonight, is what they’ve been doing the whole playoffs,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
“It’s a group of guys that have the utmost confidence in themselves. I don’t think at any point these guys thought that they were going to lose tonight,” he said.
Seemingly spooked by the raucous New York crowd early on Halloween, the Royals rallied for the seventh time in 10 postseason victories this year, this one from a 3-2 deficit.
Rookie Michael Conforto homered twice as the Mets built their lead, helped when right fielder Alex Rios lost track of the outs on a sacrifice fly.
But as the calendar was an hour from flipping to a new month, Murphy’s charmed October slipped away. So did the Mets’ best chance at evening the Series, done in by the Royals’ latest late surge.
“We certainly talked about it before, they truly don’t ever stop,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
With runners on first and second on a pair of one-out walks by Tyler Clippard, Jeurys Familia relieved. So steady in his new role as closer this year, Familia had allowed Alex Gordon’s ninth-inning, tying homer in a Game 1 loss.
This time, he came on with a 3-2 lead and got Hosmer to hit a soft grounder toward Murphy as 44,815 fans stood, waving their orange towels in hopes of an inning-ending double play.
But the slow chopper sneaked under the glove of the NL Championship Series MVP as he charged in. Murphy, who would’ve only had a play at first, appeared to glance at the runner and failed to get his mitt down. The ball rolled and rolled toward right field, and Ben Zobrist raced home from second base as Familia crouched on the mound.
“In postseason, you can’t give away outs. You’ve got to make outs. You can’t give good teams opportunities to score extra runs, because they can do it,” Collins said.
Surely no one in the silenced Citi Field stands expected this scary ending. It got worse for the Mets in a hurry, too.
Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez followed with RBI singles to break away.
Ryan Madson pitched a perfect seventh for the win, and Wade Davis worked two scoreless innings for his first save. Clippard took the loss.
Not known for his defense, Murphy still made every play look easy in the NLCS and almost single-handedly slugged the Mets to their first World Series since 1986 with seven homers in nine playoff games. He has slumped in the Fall Classic but had a one-out infield single in the ninth.
Yoenis Cespedes followed with another single, but he was doubled off first base when Lucas Duda hit an easy liner to third base and Moustakas tossed it to first to finish off another incredible comeback for the Royals.
Kansas City looked as if it was under a spell in the first few innings, though, in falling behind 2-0 in the third.
Alcides Escobar started off this game much the same way he has all postseason – with a hit – albeit on the fourth pitch from Mets hometown rookie Steven Matz.
But Escobar was then ruled out on batter’s interference when Zobrist was fooled by a sinker for strike three, his swing carrying him in front of catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who was trying to throw to second base as Escobar was attempting a steal.
The Mets had about as much success against former teammate Chris Young for the first couple of innings as they had in Game 1, when the 6-foot-10 Princeton grad held them hitless for the final three innings of the Royals’ 14-inning win.
Conforto changed that with the first swing of the third inning, sending a drive the first pitch deep into the second deck in right field for his third hit in 23 at-bats this postseason.
Things got weird after that.
Wilmer Flores singled, advanced to second on Young’s 55-foot pitch in the dirt and went to third on Matz’s sacrifice. Curtis Granderson lifted a fly to shallow right and Rios caught the ball. But he took several steps toward the dugout – thinking three outs, maybe – before realizing Flores was tagging up. Rios’ throw was late, the Mets led 2-0, and Rios stood frozen with a hand on his hip in right field.
The Royals challenged the run, saying Flores left early. Replay review umpire Bill Welke ruled the call stood.
Things took a turn for Kansas City – didn’t it always seem to this October? – when Alex Gordon singled home Perez in the fifth to get a run back.
Conforto pushed the lead back to two runs in the bottom half with his second long ball, a drive off Danny Duffy into the Mets’ bullpen. Conforto became the first rookie to connect twice in the World Series since Atlanta’s Andruw Jones did it at Yankee Stadium in 1996.
In a curious move, Collins allowed Matz, making his first World Series start, to go bat in the fifth and come out for the sixth after struggling his previous inning.
Zobrist opened the inning with his record-tying eighth postseason double and scored on Lorenzo Cain’s single. That chased Matz, who spent the night at his childhood home and then handed out some Halloween candy to neighborhood kids before making the 50-mile commute to work.
Jonathon Niese got two outs as Cain advanced to third. Bartolo Colon then set Citi Field into a frenzy by striking out Perez with a wicked slider to end a 10-pitch at-bat.