Note: April 10, 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first game at Royals/Kauffman Stadium. Each week, I will look at one memorable moment in stadium history, with the top moment revealed on April 10, 2023. Missed an entry? You can find past ones here.
I admit, when the 2015 World Series started, I was perhaps overconfident about the Royals’ chances. I don’t really know why; maybe after they survived the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS, it seemed like there was no way they could lose the Series. Maybe after a full season of watching everything work out for the team, there was a sense that would continue indefinitely.
Halfway through this game, I wondered how I could be so dumb. Sure, things started out great, at least on the field. Edinson Volquez turned aside the Mets in order in the first. In the bottom of the first, Alcides Escobar led off against New York’s ace, Matt Harvey. Escobar had acquired a reputation during the playoffs for swinging at the first pitch; indeed, the shortstop who posted a .293 on-base percentage during the season serving–and succeeding–as the leadoff hitter was the perfect encapsulation of the 2014-15 Royals, where things that made no analytical sense often worked out.
Anyway, Harvey threw a fastball right down the pipe to start the at-bat. Of course Escobar swung, lofting a drive to fairly deep left center. Yoenis Cespedes, normally a corner outfielder, raced over from center, while left fielder Michael Conforto tracked the ball. Perhaps the crowd noise hampered their communication; Conforto pulled up short while Cespedes made a belated stab at a backhanded catch. Instead, the ball bounced off his leg and rolled away from both players. Escobar circled the bases, scoring without even a throw. One pitch in and the Royals had a 1-0 lead on the first inside-the-park home run in a World Series since 1929, and the first one ever to lead off a World Series.
But the Royals soon found Harvey to be just as good as advertised, particularly after he worked around a single and a walk with one out in the second, retiring 11 straight after that.
Meanwhile, word began filtering through the crowd that Volquez was pitching without the knowledge that his father had died earlier that day in the Dominican Republic. The Fox broadcast had made the decision not to mention it during the game, in case Volquez happened to be in the clubhouse between innings and overheard it. But other news outlets were reporting it, and soon it seemed clear that Volquez might be the only person in the stadium unaware of the news, adding a certain poignancy to his efforts.
Speaking of the Fox broadcast, the game was briefly interrupted in the fourth inning when the broadcast truck outside the stadium lost power. That meant no instant replay would be available to the two teams, who agreed to play on without it. Thankfully, no controversial plays came up before Fox could go back to its broadcast in the sixth inning; the network used the international feed until the problem was solved.
The Mets tied the score in the fourth with three straight singles. They took the lead on Curtis Granderson’s solo home run in the fifth. And they extended the lead with two singles and a sacrifice fly in the sixth. As mentioned, Harvey was rolling, and doubts may have been creeping into my head.
But the Royals, having had a couple of looks at Harvey, began stirring to life offensively in the sixth. Ben Zobrist pulled one into the right field corner for a double. Lorenzo Cain went the other way for a single. Eric Hosmer hit a sacrifice fly to score Zobrist, and in the process took over the top spot in postseason RBI by a Royal, passing George Brett. Cain, despite several pickoff attempts, swiped second easily, which meant Kendrys Morales’ grounder back to the mound was not an inning-ending double play. Instead, Mike Moustakas lined a single to center, scoring Cain and tying the game.
Now the game became a battle of the bullpens, which meant Royals fans had to like their chances. But in the top of the eighth, after Kelvin Herrera got the first two batters, Juan Lagares fouled off several pitches and then blooped one into center for a single. Lagares stole second. Wilmer Flores hit a grounder down the first base line. Hosmer attempted to corral it on a short hop with a backhanded swipe, but missed it entirely. Lagares scored on the error and the Mets had a 4-3 lead. Since defense was such a large part of the Royals’ game, this error seemed like a bad omen.
Then the Royals uncharacteristically failed to take advantage of Zobrist’s double to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Cain twice failed to bunt, then swung and missed for strike three. Hosmer also struck out. A wild pitch advanced Zobrist to third and Morales walked. Jarrod Dyson ran for Morales, but before the Royals could take advantage of his speed, Moustakas grounded out against new pitcher Jeurys Familia, the Mets’ closer, on for a four-out save.
Someday, Alex Gordon should have a statue outside of Kauffman Stadium, or wherever it is the Royals are playing. And that statue should be sculpted to commemorate the biggest moment of this game. With one out in the ninth, Gordon launched a Familia fastball to center. The ball carried through the cool, damp air, landing 428 feet away from home plate. Gordon thrust an index finger into the air as he rounded first and the stadium erupted.
But this game still had a ways to go. To his credit, Familia rebounded to get the next two hitters and the game moved to extra innings. By the 12th inning, both managers had turned to their starting pitchers to cover innings, as the game seemed like it might go on a while. Chris Young had been expected to start Game Four for Kansas City; instead, he struck out the side in the 12th. Bartolo Colon, in his 19th year in the majors, made his first World Series appearance in the 12th; after Paulo Orlando led off with an infield single, Colon eventually retired Dyson on a fly ball to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, I turned to my wife (The Amazing Michelle) and told her we could leave if she wanted. It was a cool, drizzly night, and also, you know, a weeknight. No way, she replied. Sometimes you get a reminder you have married the right person.
After Young finished his third scoreless inning of relief, the Royals came to bat in the bottom of the 14th. It was past midnight now. Escobar hit a grounder that handcuffed David Wright at third base. His throw pulled first baseman Lucas Duda off the bag. At last, one of these teams had found the crack in the other’s armor. Zobrist grounded a single into right field, with Escobar reaching third. In desperation, the Mets walked Cain intentionally, hoping for a force out at home. Hosmer stepped to the plate, seeking redemption for his error. He had one job: hit the ball in the air, and get it relatively deep. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, he obliged, with a fly ball to right field. Granderson grabbed it and made a strong throw home, but Escobar scored standing up, ending the marathon that was now tied for the longest game in World Series history.
“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.”–Royals manager Ned Yost, quoted by the Associated Press, October 28, 2015
One thought on “50 Greatest Kauffman Stadium Moments, #4: Gordon’s Game-Tying Homer (October 27, 2015)”
I wasn’t at the park, but even watching on tv, one of the most electric moments in Royals history. This was the moment I was convinced the Royals would win the series, but as the game kept going into extras, I found myself doubting myself as well. And the look of relief on Hosmer’s face when Gordo went yard, after his error, was priceless.