NEW YORK – The beginning always look so harmless. That's the thing.
The Kansas City Royals don't burst into a room. Their opponents cannot recognize the danger until it is too late.
It happened again in Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night, a 5-3 victory over the New York Mets that put Kansas City within one victory of its first title since 1985.
"What they did tonight, is what they've been doing the whole playoffs," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It's a group of guys that have the utmost confidence in themselves. I don't think at any point these guys thought that they were going to lose."
When Ben Zobrist chucked his bat toward his dugout with one out in the eighth inning, there was little reason for panic among the Mets faithful at Citi Field. Zobrist represented the tying run, but the Mets had stifled the Royals all evening. Looming in the bullpen was fearsome closer Jeurys Familia. The Mets were five outs away from tying this series.
During the past month, the Royals have faced longer odds than this. They make comebacks like this look routine. All they require is an opening.
The door opened a crack more when Tyler Clippard walked Lorenzo Cain to put two runners on. In came Familia. Eric Hosmer chopped a grounder toward second base. And the arc of this series bent toward Kansas City.
The ball slipped beneath the glove of Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy. He played the hero during the first two rounds of these playoffs. Now he served as the goat. His error enabled Zobrist to tie the score at 3-3. Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez put the Royals ahead with back-to-back RBI singles.
"In postseason, you can't give away outs. You've got to make outs. You can't give good teams opportunities to score extra runs, because they can do it," New York manager Terry Collins said.
There was no crushing blow. Two walks. Two hits. A pivotal error. Champions can be crowned on the back of such events.
"This is not Daniel Murphy's fault. This is the New York Mets' fault. We lost this game," said Mets captain David Murphy, whose team got two solo home runs by Michael Conforto and five innings from fellow rookie Steven Matz.
But the eighth-inning sequence turned the ballpark into a tomb. The undertaker arrived in the form of Kansas City closer Wade Davis. He authored a six-out save to push the Mets to the brink, surviving two ninth-inning singles.
Representing the winning run, New York slugger Lucas Duda hit a soft liner to third baseman Mike Moustakas, who threw across the diamond to easily double off Yoenis Cespedes, who had wandered way too far off first base.
Kansas City could spray champagne within 24 hours. The Series will hinge on Sunday's matchup between the Royals' Edinson Volquez and the Mets' Matt Harvey, a rematch of Game 1.
"We're pretty close," Kansas City right fielder Alex Rios said, "we're just one win away."