By Anthony DiComo and Jeffrey Flanagan
NEW YORK -- The magic ride didn't end until the Royals took their fans and all of Kansas City back to the ultimate joy: A World Series championship.
After narrowly missing out on a title in 2014, the Royals took care of business in five games this time, launching another breathtaking rally to tie the Mets in the ninth inning and then disposing of them with a five-run outburst in the 12th to secure a 7-2 win in Game 5 on Sunday night at Citi Field, grabbing their first World Series championship since 1985.
"It's the best," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "We came back and won a world championship. Words can't even describe how awesome this feels right now. Couldn't have done it with a better group of guys. We battled since Day 1, Minor Leagues a lot of us, and this is an unbelievable feeling."
Added center fielder Lorenzo Cain, "Never die, never quit attitude. I mean this entire clubhouse, front office, fans, they're all amazing. I say just that never quit attitude. We continue to push no matter if it's not in our favor, continue to fight as a team."
The Royals, down 2-0 in the ninth, began to put together their record eighth come-from-behind victory this postseason. Cain walked and stole second against Mets starter Matt Harvey, who had been virtually unhittable for eight innings. Then, Hosmer rifled a run-scoring double off the wall, and Mets manager Terry Collins went to closer Jeurys Familia, who induced a Mike Moustakas groundout that moved Hosmer to third.
Then the Royals pulled off yet another one of their trademark daring plays: Salvador Perez sent a chopper to third baseman David Wright, who looked back Hosmer then threw to first to get the second out. As soon as Wright released the ball, Hosmer broke for home. A good throw to the plate by first baseman Lucas Duda likely would have ended the game with a double play, but the ball sailed wide and to the backstop and the game was tied, 2-2.
The fateful 12th inning started with a single by Perez off right-hander Addison Reed. Pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson promptly stole second and went to third on an Alex Gordon groundout. Christian Colon pinch-hit and, in his only postseason at-bat, delivered the hit that will go down in Royals lore -- a sharp RBI single to left-center that gave Kansas City a 3-2 lead. After an RBI double from Alcides Escobar and a three-run double from Cain, the Royals had the highest-scoring extra inning in World Series history.
"I was ready," Colon said. "It's like studying for a test. You study and you get ready."
Royals closer Wade Davis nailed down the final three outs, combining with Kelvin Herrera and Luke Hochevar for six scoreless relief innings. And the World Series trophy was headed back to Kansas City.
"To be able to win this is very, very special, with this group of guys," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "With their character, with their heart, with their passion, with the energy that they bring every single day, I mean, they leave everything on the field."
Kansas City's amazing comeback undid all the early work of Harvey, who pitched with a lead from the second inning on, thanks to Curtis Granderson's first-inning homer against Royals starter Edinson Volquez. The Mets also used a Hosmer error to their advantage during a sixth-inning rally off Volquez, plating a second run on Duda's sacrifice fly. Pitching for the first time since learning of the death of his father, Volquez allowed only those two runs in six innings.
Collins, who had planned to start the ninth inning with Familia but changed his mind, took the blame for sending Harvey back out.
"I said, 'Matt, you've got us exactly where we wanted to get you.' He said, 'I want this game in the worst way.' So obviously I let my heart get in the way of my gut. I love my players, and I trust them. And so I said, 'Go get 'em out,'" Collins said. "It didn't work. It was my fault."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED The championship run: Colon's single came on his only plate appearance of the postseason, scoring Dyson with the go-ahead run. It was the Mets' inability to control the Royals' running game that allowed the rally to unfold. After Perez singled to open the inning, Dyson immediately stole second base to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with no outs. Colon came through two batters later.
"That's just how they play," said catcher Travis d'Arnaud, who was behind the plate for all 11 of the Royals' World Series steals. "That's all I've ever seen, even watching them on TV in the playoffs, watching them on TV during the regular season. That's just how they play. They take chances, and it paid off for them."
Harvey takes control: At no point was Harvey better than when he struck out the heart of Kansas City's order in succession in the fourth. It was a clinic. The Mets' ace set down Cain on an 86-mph changeup, struck out Hosmer on an 83-mph curve, then ramped his fastball up to 98 to whiff Moustakas. For good measure, Harvey also struck out three of the four batters he faced in the fifth inning, finishing with nine punchouts while keeping the Royals off the board through eight.
The Dark Ninth: It was not until the ninth that the Royals mustered a serious rally off Harvey, scoring their first run on Hosmer's double. Duda's error then changed the complexion of the entire game, allowing the tying run to score on what could have been a game-ending double play. The result was Familia's third blown save of the Series.
"It was hard for me to leave in a situation like that," Harvey said. "We're up two runs and kind of cruising through the game. It's one pitch here, and it's a different ballgame. [The fans] were awesome, they've been awesome all year out there. I had so much fun tonight. The energy was incredible."
The Grandy Man: It didn't take long for the Mets to extend their franchise-record streak of hitting a homer in every postseason home game. Granderson rocked Volquez's third pitch of the game over the center-field fence, his first home run all year on an 0-2 count. Granderson joined Tommie Agee, Wayne Garrett, Lenny Dykstra and Jose Reyes as the only Mets to hit leadoff homers in postseason play.
"To be able to be one of the final two teams standing is definitely a good thing to take with us," Granderson said. "There's no reason to hang our heads, by any means. The Royals played a great series this World Series, and you've got to give credit where credit is due."
The Hoz error: For the second time in the Series, Hosmer, a two-time Gold Glover and a finalist again this year, made a critical error that led to a run. In Game 1, the Royals' first baseman booted a grounder by Wilmer Flores that allowed the Mets to take a 4-3 lead. Kansas City recovered and won, 5-4, in 14 innings. This time, Hosmer booted a grounder by Daniel Murphy in the sixth that loaded the bases with one out. Volquez escaped the jam with only one run allowed.
Perez won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet after hitting .364 (8-for-22) with two doubles and two RBIs. The 25-year-old catcher played every inning of the World Series except the final one.
"He just had a phenomenal series," Yost said. "I think if I had one regret during the whole playoffs was I had to pinch-run for Sal there in that inning. But it opened up the door for us to score five. I really wish that Sal could have been out there to jump in Wade's arms when we got that final out."
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM Yoenis Cespedes crumpled to the ground after fouling a ball off his left knee in the sixth inning, drawing Collins and two members of the Mets' training staff out to check on him. Eventually, Cespedes sat up, limped around the batter's box and completed his at-bat -- a bases-loaded, no-outs popup. Juan Lagares replaced him on defense to open the seventh.
Mets: Heartbreak will give way to a busy offseason for the Mets, who stand to lose Murphy and Cespedes, among others, to free agency. General manager Sandy Alderson will get right to work, with the General Managers Meetings scheduled to begin a week from Monday. The rest of the Mets will scatter to their offseason homes in Florida, California, Latin America and beyond.