KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Going into the World Series, the Mets were aware of the Royals' penchant for putting the ball in play. It meant defense -- something the Mets have not always excelled at in 2015 -- is going to be an important factor.
Tuesday night, the Mets made a key defensive mistake on the first pitch by Matt Harvey and another on one of the last pitches of the game. Both were on balls hit by Alcides Escobar and both led to runs, including the winning run in the 14th inning as the Royals took Game 1, 5-4.
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The first led to a leadoff inside-the-park home run as a drive to deep left-center fell between centerfielder Yoenis Cespedes and leftfielder Michael Conforto.
The second -- an error by David Wright on a leadoff grounder in the 14th -- led to the Royals eventually jumping around in celebration after Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly to right gave Kansas City a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
In the 14th, Escobar hit one to third against Bartolo Colon. Wright booted it and then threw wildly to first, pulling Lucas Duda off the bag to the outfield side.
"Just got an in-between hop and the ball kind of came up on me and just couldn't get the glove on it," Wright said. "It hit my wrist and got me in the midsection and then I know he can run, so I tried to rush the throw a little bit and just couldn't get him."
Wright's first World Series game was one to remember through 5 hours, 9 minutes of what he called "a roller-coaster ride, for sure."
But it was also one for the Captain to forget as he made the error, was caught stealing on a replay review to end the ninth with home-run crazy Daniel Murphy at the plate and struck out with the potential go-ahead runs on base to end the 11th.
Overall, Wright went 2-for-7. At least he had a better night than Cespedes, who missed the pregame introductions, went 1-for-6 with two strikeouts and saw Escobar's first-inning drive hit off his right shin and go for an inside-the-park home run.
Escobar hit Harvey's first offering into deep left-centerfield. Cespedes got to the ball, appeared to slightly overrun it, and made a half-hearted backhanded stab at it.
The ball missed Cespedes' glove and hit his right shin and headed toward the leftfield line. Conforto, who had shied away from trying to catch the ball in deference to Cespedes, ran it down. But not until Escobar circled the bases and scored without a throw home to give Kansas City a shocking 1-0 lead.
It was the 12th inside-the-park home run in World Series history and first since 1929, when Mule Haas hit one for the Philadelphia A's against the Chicago Cubs.
"As I ran after the ball, I looked at Conforto and by the time I looked back up, I had lost the ball," Cespedes said through a translator. "After I lost it, of course I tried to go back and grab it, do something."
Conforto said he called for it. Cespedes said he didn't.
"Michael was there," manager Terry Collins said. "He thought he heard Yo call for it. He did what he's supposed to do, and that's let him have it. And again, you're talking about a guy that's playing his first [World Series] game with the crowd noise that he wasn't really sure. He just thought he heard him call it, so he gave way, and Ces didn't get there."
Said Conforto: "I pulled up. I really don't want to make any excuses. I had a shot to catch that ball. That ball can't get down. We're in the World Series and it's got to be caught. I had a chance to make the play and didn't make it . . . What I heard could have been a fan, it could have been anyone. But like I said, there is no excuse, the ball has to be caught."
The Mets knew before the series that they had to play good defense against the aggressive Royals.
"They're not a team that walks a lot, but they don't strike out a lot, either," Collins said. "Which means they'll put the ball in play, which means your defense has to step up. And I think that's going to be one of the areas where we certainly have to -- and Tim [Teufel] does a great job, so does Tommy [Goodwin]. We've got to do a real good job in that ballpark because it's a big park and when they put the ball in play, we've got to get them in the right spots."
Collins decided to start Cespedes in center with Kelly Johnson as the designated hitter against righthander Edinson Volquez. Collins had the option of starting 2014 NL Gold Glove award winner Juan Lagares in center and using either Cespedes or Conforto in left with the other as the DH.
Mets DHs (Johnson, Michael Cuddyer, Kirk Nieuwenhuis) went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, all by Cuddyer.
"We looked at all the possibilities," Collins said before the game. "We thought Kelly gave us our best opportunity and if we need to make changes, we will. But yeah, we're pretty happy with our outfield defense. This is a big park, like ours. I think Yoenis has shown that he can play centerfield. And if we need to make moves, we'll make moves later in the game."
With the Mets leading 3-1 in the sixth, Collins put Lagares in center and moved Cespedes to left. Lagares went 2-for-3 and Collins said he "probably" would start Game 2.
True to the Royals' reputation, no Kansas City batter struck out until Harvey got Kendrys Morales leading off the fourth. The Mets redeemed themselves on defense when Wright made a leaping catch of a Salvador Perez liner to end the fourth and Wilmer Flores threw out Escobar on a ball deep in the shortstop hole to end the fifth. But their overall defensive ledger was a negative.
-- With Neil Best