For all the oddities, peaks and valleys of Game 1 of the World Series – and there were plenty of all three – there’s no denying what was the most shocking moment of the Royals’ 5-4, 14-inning win over the Mets on Tuesday.
“The biggest surprise was the home run by Alex Gordon off of Jeurys Familia in the ninth inning,” CBS and FOX Sports baseball analyst C.J. Nitkowski said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think that was the least predictable. I know there was some pretty incredible things last night: the inside-the-park home run, the delay, the error by Eric Hosmer; we don’t see that too often. But the thing that stuck out to me was the home run. Familia has been so good for the New York Mets since going into that role. He had not blown a save in three months. He’s been dynamite. I’m sitting here waiting along and was getting ready to send out a tweet about how dominant he was and kind of digging into some of the particulars, and he left a 1-1 fastball over the middle of the plate. It wasn’t his best, even though the velocity was good. At the same time, you still have to hit it, and Alex Gordon was all over it. He crushed it. It wasn’t even close. He killed that ball to center field. That’s the one that probably jumps out to me the most today.”
Game 2 is Wednesday in Kansas City at 8:07 p.m. ET, with Jacob deGrom opposing Johnny Cueto.
Matt Harvey, who started Game 1 for the Mets, relied less on his fastball and more on his off-speed pitches, mainly because the Royals’ might be the best fastball-hitting team in the majors. Will we see the same approach by the Mets’ power pitchers in Game 2?
“I think so,” Nitkowski said, “and that’s kind of what we saw from Matt Harvey. I want to say it was the least percentage of fastballs that we’ve ever seen him throw in a game. Now, he only had two strikeouts, but that’s because it’s the Kansas City Royals’ lineup. They’re a contact lineup. They don’t swing and miss a lot. They put the ball in play, but they also chase a little bit. They will chase pitches out of the zone. They’re just not swinging and missing those pitches, and the idea when you’re facing a team like the Kansas City Royals is how do I induce weak contact? How do I keep the baseball off the barrel of the bat? Because chances are you’re not going to get it by them very often. You need to spot your fastball well . . . but your off-speed pitches, you’r probably going to throw out of the zone a little bit. We call it a strike-to-ball, where that pitch is going to be a strike most of the way but finishes out of the zone. That’s how you induce a team who’s a little bit aggressive to swing more. This is what the Kansas City Royals do.
“So I would say that would probably be the approach,” Nitkowski continued. “That’s how you can go through six innings and Matt Harvey can only throw 80 pitches. He probably should have stayed out there and gone a little longer. Hindsight is 20/20. But that’s kind of the case when you’re facing this lineup. If you come in and you’re trying to strike guys out, you’re probably going to run (into) a little bit of a trouble. We saw Jacob deGrom do the exact same thing against the Chicago Cubs: less fastballs, more off-speed. I have a feeling we’ll see the same thing tonight.”