NEW YORK -- Before the ninth inning of Sunday night's decisive World Series Game 5, New York Mets' starter Matt Harvey had the Royals set to return to Kansas City for a Game 6. KC couldn't muster any offense, and only got a single runner in scoring position through eight innings, saddling them with a meager 4.4 win expectancy by the end of the inning according to FanGraphs.
Mets' manager Terry Collins appeared ready to retire Harvey for the night, but the right-hander lobbied his coach before the top of the ninth and strode out to the mound to the delight of the crowd at Citi Field to protect a 2-0 lead.
But, as the Royals had done seven times in the 2015 postseason before Sunday night, the offense mounted a fierce comeback.
Lorenzo Cain's walk and stolen base to start the ninth set the table for Eric Hosmer, who slashed a double to left field to bring Cain home and cut the deficit to 2-1. Collins then turned to closer Jeurys Familia to try and close out the win, but for a third time in the World Series, Familia failed to hold the lead. After Mike Moustakas' productive out moved Hosmer to third, he raced home on a Salvador Perez groundout and was safe when Lucas Duda threw wildly to catcher Travis d'Arnaud.
The score was tied at 2, and KC's win expectancy grew from 4.4 percent at its low, to 41.3 percent when Hosmer crossed home plate.
The teams exchanged scoreless frames in the 10th and 11th innings, and then Perez led off the 12th with a bloop single down the right field line. The Royals' wheels were in motion as Jarrod Dyson pinch-ran, promptly stole second base and moved to third on an Alex Gordon groundout. With the pitcher's spot due, the Royals turned to a batter who hadn't hit since the regular season, Christian Colon.
Colon was no stranger to the postseason spotlight, having scored the game-winning run in the 2014 Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics in extra innings. Colon didn't waste his opportunity, smashing a single to left and giving the Royals a 3-2 lead that they would add to in the 12th until it was 7-2.
By the time KC closer Wade Davis took the ball in the bottom of the 12th, the Royals win expectancy had grown to 95.5 percent. Davis allowed a solitary single while striking out the side and clinching the Royals' decisive victory.
Improbable comebacks were the norm for Kansas City this postseason:
At some point in 2015 postseason games, KC had win probabilities: of: 18% 1% 25% 8% 10% 16% 5% KC won all 7 of those games. (via fangraphs)
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 2, 2015
Perhaps the most dramatic, and improbable, was the game that stood at one percent with KC facing elimination in Houston. The Astros only needed six outs to move on to the American League Championship Series, but the Royals' contact approach bedeviled them in a five-run 8th inning.
Given new life, the Royals never looked back. They'd pull the same tricks against the Toronto Blue Jays and the Mets by snatching a victory from presumed defeat by putting the ball in play, taking advantage of opponents' walks and errors, and having the bullpen slam the door once they gained the lead.
The improbable formula all added up to the Royals' second World Series title, the franchise's first in 30 years.