Packed Postseason: Utley, Bautista, Schwarber and Royal way
NEW YORK (AP) Hours after the final out, there was only one job left to do at empty Citi Field.
So the very last person remaining on the dimly lit diamond climbed into the shiny red Camaro presented to MVP Salvador Perez, turned the ignition and slowly drove along the warning track.
A moment later, the gleaming taillights disappeared through a gap in the left-center field wall.
World Series, over.
Hard to believe a packed postseason began almost a month earlier, a few miles away at Yankee Stadium with a gem by bearded Dallas Keuchel, one of baseball's many bright, new stars.
In between, there sure was a lot for fans to savor and second-guess. A final look back before it's time to move ahead - only 108 days till the first workouts of spring training:
BAUTISTA'S BAT TOSS: To call it a bat flip would be a disservice to Jose Bautista. In the midst of mayhem in Toronto, he sent his stick flying after homering vs. Texas during the deciding Game 5 of AL Division Series. It was likely the most crazy, emotional inning in big league history - the seventh at Rogers Centre included two bench-clearing scuffles, fans throwing debris, police on the field and errors on three straight balls. And it all started when Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin hit Shin-Soo Choo's bat on a routine throw back to the pitcher, letting a run score and prompting an umpires' conference.
UTLEY'S SLIDE: Hard-nosed or dirty, worth a suspension or not? No matter, the damage was done. Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada took a huge hit, as did Chase Utley's popularity. Tejada's leg was broken and he spent his birthday on crutches, watching his club play in the World Series. Utley drew a two-game penalty for the crash in the NL Division Series and appealed. A hearing might not be held until spring training. By then, Major League Baseball could have a new rule on how runners slide into bases - merely being able to reach the base might not be the standard much longer.
SCHWARBER'S SHOT: The ballhawks roaming outside Wrigley Field are still waiting for Kyle Schwarber's rocket to land. The Chicago rookie launched a drive against St. Louis in the NLDS that landed atop the videoboard in right field, and stayed there. The Cubs made it a moment to remember on the spot, encasing the ball in Plexiglas. A 22-year-old who began the season in Double-A, Schwarber is among a new crop of guys with great futures who were on display in October and into November - Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Noah Syndergaard and many more.
MURPHY'S LAW: Hard to imagine a player making a faster rise and more rapid fall than Daniel Murphy. A contact hitter his whole career, he became a modern-day Babe Ruth by homering in a postseason-record six straight games, connecting off the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Jake Arrieta. But just when his value as a free agent-to-be was booming, he hit a wall. The Mets second baseman managed just three singles in the World Series, and the lasting image of him in a New York uniform could be groundballs bouncing under his glove and off his mitt.
COLLINS' DECISION: Matt Harvey was out of Game 5, done after eight sharp innings that saved the Mets' season. Until he wasn't. Harvey talked Mets manager Terry Collins into letting him stay on the mound, and a 2-0 lead quickly vanished. The Royals rallied to tie it and won the championship in the 12th. Collins owned up to his choice, saying he followed his heart instead of his head. And it wasn't like closer Jeurys Familia struck out every batter he faced over the week. Either way, the debate on what Collins should've done is likely to rage through the winter, and well beyond.
KANSAS CITY'S FOUL APPROACH: A liner over the dugout by Ben Zobrist. A tip to the backstop by Alex Gordon. A nubber that nicks the catcher by Lorenzo Cain. Really, has any team turned foul balls into an art like the Royals? Not that they're trying to spoil pitches or prolong at-bats. Yet at a time when many teams preach patience at the plate and seemingly accept higher strikeout rates, Alcides Escobar and his teammates go up there swinging early - and making contact.
''Don't strike out. Imagine that? What a concept,'' said Hall of Famer George Brett, now a Royals executive. ''Put the ball in play, good things happen. Strike out, nothing good happens.''