The stakes do not get much higher than the bottom of the 9th of a World Series game. Alex Gordon stepped into the box against one of this year’s best young pitchers in the National League: Jeurys Familia. It had taken him only 5 pitches to force routine groundouts from Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez. There was very little worry in Mets nation.
The first sinker missed the zone. The second caromed foul off Gordo’s bat.
The third was a mistake in philosophy. Sinkers are a result of physics. By modifying the grip and release, the ball comes out with a sidespin that causes it to drop more than a typical fastball. Pitchers will sacrifice a few miles per hour to really torque the spin, the thought being a ball that moves more is harder to hit than a slightly faster one.
However, Familia tried to quick pitch Gordon. This somewhat controversial move tries to break the timing of the hitter, usually by pumping a pitcher’s hardest fastball with a shortened version of his regular windup. It makes sense when trying to control the running game. The “unwritten rules of the game” tend to raise an eyebrow (or more) when you try it with no one on base. Just ask Josh Donaldson.
To maximize the surprise effect of the quick pitch, Familia rushed his delivery and overthrew a sinker. Because physics don’t care that much about silly mind games, the ball with increased force and much less spin became a belt high 97 mph cookie over the heart of the plate. Gordon, who had just watched him try (and successfully execute) this move on Salvy from the on deck circle, was ready for it. He was not going to miss that pitch.
Fortunately for us Royals fan, he barreled it perfectly to the tune of a mammoth 438 foot home run to dead center, tying the game.
In the bottom of the ninth.
Of a World Series game.
A couple hours later, the Royals would go on to win. It was a HUGE victory, as both bullpens are depleted and today’s starting matchup of deGrom vs Cueto is strongly in the Mets favor. There were many other great individual performances that went into the win. Edinson Volquez pitched 6 strong innings. Zobrist went 3 for 6. Mike Moustakas had a huge RBI earlier in the game to tie it at 3 (not to mention a great diving play on the line that saved at least one run). Eric Hosmer played the role of both hero and zero, plating two (including the game winning run) with sacrifice flies as well as misplaying the grounder that gave the Mets a temporary 4-3 lead. Chris Young was almost perfect, only allowing one baserunner in 3 no-hit innings of long relief.
But it is Gordo’s homerun that will be the thing that people remember most from what was one of the most bizarre games in World Series history. A true “do you remember where you were when” moment.
Alex will inevitably go on to hit many more home runs in his baseball career. He will have many more hits. He will win games with big RBIs. He will save games his tremendous play in the field.
But when all is said and done and his name one day goes into the Royals Hall of Fame (which I do believe will happen), you will be hard pressed to find a more defining moment in his career than the one we witnessed last night.
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