Mets Pushed to Brink After Eighth Inning Disaster in Game 4

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World Series - Kansas City Royals v New York Mets - Game Four
Daniel Murphy.Photo: Sean M. Haffey/2015 Getty Images

Before the first game of the World Series, Alex Rodriguez — who’s been excellent as a Fox analyst over the past couple of weeks — was asked to make a prediction. "If the Mets catch the baseball," he said, "they will be world champions." In other words, the Mets would win as long as their defense didn’t let them down. In Game 4 on Saturday night, in a critical eighth inning, it let them down. With the Mets up 3-2 with one out in the eighth inning, Daniel Murphy, the hero of the Mets’ postseason through two rounds, made an error on a ground ball to second that allowed the tying run to score. The wheels would come off from there, and the Royals would win, 5-3, to push the Mets to the brink of elimination and move to within a victory of their first World Series title in 30 years.

To be clear: Murphy wasn’t the only goat in this game: After his error, Jeurys Familia allowed two more runs to score on two more Royals hits, and with the Mets putting together a rally in the bottom of the ninth, Yoenis Cespedes was inexcusably doubled off first on a softly hit ball to third, ending his team’s chances of a comeback. But combined, all of that swung the series: The Mets had been five outs from tying it at two games apiece with their ace set to pitch at Citi Field tomorrow night. Now, they’ll need a win in Game 5 just to shift the series back to Kansas City.

In what’s been a sloppy series defensively, this game was especially rough — and not just for the Mets. Shortly after Michael Conforto put the Mets on the board with a solo home run in the third, the Mets would take a 2-0 lead when Royals right fielder Alex Rios seemingly forgot how many outs there were on a Curtis Granderson fly ball to right. With one down, rather than come up throwing immediately with Wilmer Flores tagging from third, Rios casually caught the ball, and threw home too late to have a chance at the out.

Mets starter Steven Matz, pitching in just the ninth game of his big-league career, cruised through the first four innings just hours after distributing candy to trick-or-treaters at his parents’ house on Long Island.

Kansas City would cut the Mets’ lead to 2-1 in the fifth, but with Royals starter Chris Young out of the game after being lifted for a pinch hitter, the 22-year-old Conforto hit his second solo homer of the night to restore his team’s two-run lead. Matz would allow another run in the sixth before being pulled by Terry Collins, but with the Royals threatening, the Mets would escape the inning with their 3-2 lead intact when Bartolo Colon, in the biggest spot of his 18-year career, struck out Salvador Perez to end the inning.

The Mets would take that 3-2 lead into the eighth, at which point the game — and perhaps their season — fell apart. Tyler Clippard got a quick out before walking Ben Zobrist, and with the closer Familia warming up, Collins left Clippard in the game to face Lorenzo Cain, who also walked.

Collins brought in Familia with runners on first and second and one out, but for the second time in the series, Familia blew the save. He got Eric Hosmer to hit a chopper to second, but it went under the glove of the charging Murphy, allowing Zobrist to score. Murphy, whose bat helped carry the Mets to the World Series, remains one of the worst defensive second basemen in the league statistically, and it cost the Mets on Saturday night.

Of course, even if Murphy makes the play, the Royals still would have likely had runners at second and third with two outs, and may well have gone ahead in the inning anyway. But all we know for sure is that after the error, Familia allowed an RBI single to Mike Moustakas, then allowed another to Perez to give Kansas City a 5-3 lead.

And while the Mets would threaten in the ninth, the game would end on Cespedes’s base-running blunder, giving Wade Davis a six-out save, and giving the Royals a commanding 3-1 series lead.

No matter what, Citi Field will host its final game of the season on Sunday night, when Matt Harvey takes the ball in Game 5. The question, now, is whether it’ll be the Mets’ last game of the year, as well.