The Royals right fielder settled under Curtis Granderson’s third-inning fly ball to short right field, seemingly ready for the throw home to keep New York’s Wilmer Flores from scoring.
Then Rios took a casual step toward the dugout, thinking he had caught the third out, not the second.
In the middle of his second step, he heard center fielder Lorenzo Cain shout to him. Only then did Rios throw home, and it was not in time as Flores scored standing up. Rios’ gaffe gave the Mets a two-run lead, but Kansas City rallied for three runs in the eighth inning for a 5-3 victory Saturday night and a 3-1 World Series lead.
”It’s a mental mistake,” Rios said. ”But what do you do? You can’t just put your head down. You have to compete. If you put your head down, you’re done.”
Royals manager Ned Yost bristled when asked whether a mistake like that should not happen at this level.
”What do you think?” he said.
Michael Conforto’s leadoff home run in the third against Chris Young put the Mets ahead. Flores singled, ending an 0-for-10 Series start, advanced on a wild pitch and was sacrificed to third by pitcher Steven Matz.
Kansas City appealed to umpires over whether Flores left third base early. After a video review of 2 minutes, 22 seconds by umpire Bill Welke, the safe call on the field was allowed to stand.
”The replay official could not definitively determine that the runner left the base prior to the ball touching the fielder’s glove,” Major League Baseball said in a statement.
With a 2-0 lead, Mets’ fans thought they had a good chance to tie the Series.
”That certainly was a big run at the time,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. ”Not by any stretch of the imagination did we think the game was over. We knew we had a long way to go, and we still had to get some big outs and we didn’t do it.”
Rios has been replaced in right field in 11 of Kansas City’s 15 postseason games. While the Royals were cool and assured for the most part at Kauffman Stadium in taking a 2-0 Series lead, defense was shaky at Citi Field.
But now the Royals find themselves one win from their first title since 1985.
”The boys,” Rios said, ”they came back and did what they had to do. So it was all good.”
They have three chances to get that final one, the one they couldn’t against San Francisco last year. And two of three potential remaining games would be at home.
”We’re pretty close,” Rios said, ”we’re just one win away.”
That is math Kansas City likes.