KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It took one pitch into the bottom of the first inning Tuesday night for one of the Mets' main fears about this World Series matchup with the Royals to come into focus.
Alcides Escobar hit Matt Harvey's first offering into deep left-centerfield. Centerfielder Yoenis Cespedes got to the ball, appeared to even slightly overrun it, and made a halfhearted backhanded stab at it.
The ball missed Cespedes' glove and hit his right shin and headed toward the leftfield line. Leftfielder Michael Conforto, who had shied away from trying to catch the ball in deference to Cespedes, ran it down. But not until Escobar had 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.
Escobar was the MVP of the Royals' six-game ALCS victory over the Blue Jays.
Coming into this 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 -- was going to be an important factor.
"They're not a team that walks a lot, but they don't strike out a lot, either," manager Terry 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.
"We looked at all the possibilities," Collins said on Monday. "And if Cueto was starting, we were looking at perhaps somebody else [for DH], because his numbers against lefties are pretty good. 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, Lagares came in to play center with Cespedes moving to left.
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 David 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.