New York Mets ace Matt Harvey pitched the game of his life in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday until he didn’t. The 26-year-old right-hander allowed four hits, one walk, and zero runs through eight innings to go along with nine strikeouts. But then, with his team up 2–0 and three outs away from taking the World Series to a sixth game, he just had to go out to the mound one more time.
With Harvey’s pitch count at just over the 100 mark, Mets manager Terry Collins planned to bring in Jeurys Familia to try to close out the game and try to send the World Series back to Kansas City. But Harvey convinced him in between innings to stick with his starter. “One of things I try to pride myself in here is [I] really trust my players,” Collins said after the game. “This kid, who has had a tough year, he looked me in the eye and said ‘I’ve got to have this game.’ And for what he’s been through and what he’s trying to accomplish, I said, ‘You can go out there and get the job done.’ It just didn’t happen.”
That quote makes it sounds as if both men were influenced by the criticism Harvey received from the New York press earlier this year after super agent Scott Boras tried to push the team to shut him down early to keep his innings count low in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. Boras had pushed for a 180-innings limit, which would have ended Harvey’s season in September. Instead, Harvey ended up pitching more than 215 innings. The ninth inning of Game 5 was one too many, and he ultimately left it without recording an out.
Perhaps more inexplicable than letting a hot starter try to finish a shutout was Collins’ decision to let Harvey stay in the game after giving up a lead-off walk to Lorenzo Cain to start the ninth. After Cain stole second base, his second steal of the night and sixth of the postseason, Eric Hosmer doubled to drive him home and put the tying run on second-base with nobody out. That’s when Harvey finally got the hook. (Hosmer ultimately scored on a Salvador Pérez groundout when Mets first baseman Lucas Duda threw the ball well wide of the mark at home to allow in the game-tying run.)
The Royals would go on to score five runs in the 12th inning, a postseason extra innings record, to claim the 7–2 win and clinch the World Series four games to one. Aside from how fun this Royals team was and how many comebacks they were able to put together to claim the title, this World Series will be remembered for years to come for the decisions of Harvey and Collins.
There’s plenty of blame to go around if Mets fans are looking for scapegoats for their series defeat—from Familia’s World Series record three blown saves, to Daniel Murphy’s 8th-inning error that keyed the Royals Game 4 win, to the team’s inability to score more than one run with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 6th inning of Game 5 after Collins decided to keep in an injured Yoenis Céspedes. But no better image captures the Mets loss than the hangdog expression Harvey wore after finally getting taken out of the game. These shots of Matt Harvey hanging his head in shame will likely go down as the defining images of the 2015 World Series, at least for Mets fans.