NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 2:04 AM
Jeurys Familia watches as Alex Gordon’s home run sails over the center field wall.
KANSAS CITY – The Mets took a gut punch as soon as Alex Gordon’s bat met Jeurys Familia’s 97 mile per hour sinker in the ninth inning.
The ball soared over the center field wall, Kauffman Stadium going crazy and Familia’s veneer of invincibility gone, at least for one night. The Royals who went on to win Game 1, 5-4 in 14 innings, were the first team to crack the Mets’ superlative closer in this postseason and the series may turn on whether they can do it again.
“It is what it is,” Jon Niese said of Familia. “It’s hard to believe, because he’s so good. But it happens to the best of them. He’s going to come back.”
The Mets can’t win a battle of the bullpens against the Royals unless Familia is soaring. Collins has said several times recently that his ideal relief scenario involves the starter getting deep enough into the game that the next man who pitches is Familia.
“I’ve never seen him before and knew he was really good,” Gordon said. “I definitely wasn’t trying to (hit a home run).”
That speaks just as much to the shaky state of the Mets’ setup crew as it does to Familia’s terrific freshman season owning the ninth.
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The Mets’ closer, who got the job when Jenrry Mejia was slapped with his first drug suspension, entered the World Series having been unscored upon in 9.2 postseason innings and holding opponents to an .065 average.
He’s been the relief rock and he seemed to keep it going when he wriggled free of a Tyler Clippard-created jam, nailing down the final out of the eighth inning with runners on first and third. But he was not up to a four-out save this time.
Funny, considering that the Mets got decent outings from some of the much-maligned other relievers, though Clippard was shaky again despite not giving up any runs. He started the eighth and gave up a leadoff double, got two strikeouts and then walked a batter before giving way to Familia.
But Addison Reed delivered a scoreless seventh inning and Jon Niese, used to starting, threw two shutout innings. Collins turned the game over to Bartolo Colon after Niese was done. Colon pitched well but ended up taking the loss on Eric Hosmer’s sac fly in the 14th.
Thing is, the Mets likely will have to lean on their bullpen. For all the talk about their starters lasting deep into playoff games — Collins is among the people who have said this — they only pitched seven innings or more three times in the 10 postseason games they have played.
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The blown save is Familia’s first since July and it’s his first earned run of the postseason.
Jacob deGrom threw seven innings in Game 1 of the division series and also in Game 3 of the NLCS. Harvey threw 7.2 innings in the NLCS opener. Here are the starter innings for their other postseason games: 6.1 from Noah Syndergaard, five from Matt Harvey, five from Steven Matz, six by deGrom, 5.2 from Syndergaard, 4.2 from Matz and six from Harvey Tuesday night.
Collins says the Mets needed relievers in more set roles during the season because innings-limits at times affected how deep their starters could go into games.
As Collins phrased it, “We’ve needed it because we had all these restrictions…So all of a sudden that seventh inning became a pretty big monster.”
Now that it’s the World Series, maybe the starters will pitch deeper. There’s been a lot of talk around the Series about how the Royals like to put the ball in play. They’re not afraid to swing at a fastball.
“With the stuff guys are featuring now, you can’t afford to give strikes away,” KC’s Eric Hosmer says. “You can’t afford to put yourself in a hole.
“That’s our approach as an offense – to be aggressive, not wait around. Especially when you have guys with the athleticism that we have, we feel that if we put the ball in play and try to make something happen, it’s way more beneficial than if we went up there not swinging the bat.”
Maybe that means the Mets’ aces can keep their pitch counts down – strikeouts do take a bit of work. Quick outs might keep them in the game longer, allowing Collins to get into his perfect bullpen scenario, starter to Familia.
Familia didn’t hold up his end of the deal Tuesday night and now maybe his postseason aura is cracked. The Mets have to hope that does happen again, especially with all the other bullpen concerns they’ve got.
BY Bill Price
October 27, 6:23PM
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