Opening shock: Escobar hits inside-the-park homer off Harvey
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Alcides Escobar sped into second, turned and saw third base coach Mike Jirschele jumping and waving him toward third. And Jirschele kept waving him home.
”I said wow! I have a chance to make this,” Escobar said. ”That’s nice. That’s a lot of fun right there.”
Escobar hit the first inside-the-park home run leading off a World Series game since 1903, an adrenaline-charged beginning for Kansas City. Five hours later, Escobar scored the winning run on Eric Hosmer’s 14th-inning sacrifice fly, lifting the Royals over the New York Mets 5-4 in Tuesday night’s opener.
Throwing the first World Series pitch of his career, New York’s Matt Harvey began with a 95 mph, belt-high fastball over the outer part of the plate. Escobar sent the pitch soaring through the rain to left-center field. Rookie Michael Conforto ran over from left, and Yoenis Cespedes sprinted over from center, both converging on the ball.
Conforto stopped, and Cespedes never lifted his glove in an attempt for a catch.
”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.
The ball hit off Cespedes’ lower right leg, 372 feet from home plate, and rolled along the warning track toward left.
”It’s shocking. That’s not how you want to start the Series, that’s for sure,” Conforto said. ”I definitely had a chance to make the play, and I pulled up.”
He thought Cespedes had called him off.
”It’s definitely loud,” Conforto said. ”What I heard could have been a fan. It could have been anybody.”
By the time Conforto retrieved it and threw to Wilmer Flores, there was no need for the shortstop to even throw home. Escobar ran so hard, he turned his right ankle slightly rounding third. He made it home in 15.09 seconds, reaching a top speed of 20 mph, according to Major League Baseball’s Statcast computer.
”It should have been caught,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
The only other leadoff inside-the-park homer leading off a Series game was hit by Patsy Dougherty of the Boston Americans against Pittsburgh’s Sam Leever in the second Series game ever played, in 1903.
Just 12 inside-the-park homers have been hit, a list that includes Casey Stengel in 1923 and Lou Gehrig in 1928. No one had hit one since Mule Haas of the Philadelphia Athletics against the Chicago Cubs in 1929.
”I don’t think you expect the first pitch of the game to be deep into the gap like that,” Harvey said.
Escobar’s drive landed about 30 feet from Alex Gordon’s hit in the ninth inning of Game 7 last year against San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, a single that skipped by center fielder Gregor Blanco for an error. Jirschele held up Gordon, who probably would have been thrown out easily by shortstop Brandon Crawford, who was in shallow left when he took the throw from left fielder Juan Perez. With the potential tying run 90 feet from home plate, Salvador Perez fouled out to third, ending the Royals’ season.
This dash was triumphant.
Escobar also scored the winning run after reaching on third baseman David Wright’s error. Escobar crossed the plate standing up ahead of right fielder Curtis Granderson’s 300-foot throw, high-fived Jarrod Dyson and was mobbed by his teammates.
”This team,” Escobar said, ”never quits.”