NEW YORK — As the eighth-inning meltdown unfolded Saturday night at Citi Field, the second-guessing was already in high gear.
Mets manager Terry Collins followed his familiar bullpen pattern in Game 4 of the World Series. Leading by one run and needing six outs, he brought Tyler Clippard in for the eighth inning. After a one-out walk, Collins stuck with Clippard and only turned the game over to closer Jeurys Familia after a second walk by Clippard.
An error by Daniel Murphy was followed by two singles and the Royals suddenly had a two-run lead. The Mets were unable to recover and Collins was lambasted for mismanaging his bullpen in the most important game of the year.
On Sunday, Collins told reporters that even his wife, Debbie, second-guessed him. On the drive home after Game 4, she asked him why he didn't bring Familia into the game for a six-out save.
Later, Collins said his bullpen setup — Addison Reed in the seventh, Clippard in the eighth, Familia in the ninth — has worked well during the regular season stretch run and in the postseason.
"It's easy to sit back and say, 'You should have done this after it didn't work,' " Collins said. "We won a lot of games using that scenario and [Saturday] night it didn't work. So, you know, it's easy, 'Well, you should have used Familia.' "
It was Familia's second blown save of the series. His third blown save would come Sunday night, when Collins let starter Matt Harvey start the ninth. Familia entered after a walk and a double, but the Royals scored the tying run on a ground out and eventually won the series in the 12th inning.
Collins said he regretted his decision to follow his heart instead of his head when he allowed Harvey to talk him into returning to the mound in the ninth. But even before Game 5, Collins understood his bullpen moves were being dissected.
"I used Familia in Los Angeles and I got crucified because I used him for a six-out save," Collins said. "And [Saturday] night I got crucified because I didn't use him for six outs. That's the nature of the game. I'm not offended by that. That's opinions. But we went with what worked for us, and it didn't work last night."
In Game 1, Familia allowed a game-tying homer to Alex Gordon for his first blown save since July 30. The Royals won that game in 14 innings.
"Should I have not used him against Gordon?" Collins said. "Should I have brought somebody in? No. You just go with what's been working for you. It's the same thing with the lineup. It's the old [saying] ... I don't know what manager said it, but I'm going with the guys that brought me to the dance. And those guys [Saturday] night were the ones that got us to this point."
Ned Yost has been a big league manager for 12 years, but he had never managed in the postseason before 2014. He's been at the wheel of two American League pennant winners, showing he has the temperament for the big stage.
The Braves won 11 division titles and appeared in five World Series during that stretch. Atlanta won the 1995 World Series.
"The best experience I had was being the bullpen coach and third base coach for Bobby Cox for 12 years," Yost said. "That's where the majority of the lessons that I've learned came from him. I couldn't have been luckier to spend 12 years with a Hall of Fame manager and watch his every move and talk to him about moves, and be there with him through that all that time when we were just ultimately successful."
Cox, who retired after the 2010 season, remains close to Yost. They text each other regularly and Cox continually offers advice.
"Last year I would call him in the playoffs," Yost said. "My mind is always churning about our bullpen usage. I'm always afraid that I'm going to overuse guys. I'm going to burn guys off. We were in the middle of playoffs last year and guys were doing what they've done [this year], going two and three days in a row. … It was making me very nervous.
"And I called Bobby one day on the way to the ballpark. I said, 'Bobby, man, I feel like I'm burning these guys up. How did you do it back in the day when our relievers would go two and three days in a row?' He said, 'Ned, it's very simple: You trust them. If they tell you they can go, they can go. If they tell you they can't go, they can't go. And they're going to be really, really honest with you. It's a special time of year and they're not going to jeopardize anything. But if they tell you they can go, you pitch them.' "
Rare November Night
Sunday night's game was the eighth November World Series game and the first November game in Mets history. There was one in 2010, three in 2009 and three in 2001. … The Mets entered Game 5 with an 8-5 all-time postseason record in elimination games, including a 6-2 record at home. They won two consecutive elimination games in the 1986 World Series, but lost two other World Series elimination games (Game 7 to the Athletics in 1973, Game 5 to the Yankees in 2000). … Collins on the 2015 season: "Tremendous year. I just told the players, I've done this for a long, long time and this is the most fun I've ever had in all the years. Tremendous season, all we had to deal with, but tremendous guys to be around, great experience. I'm very, very proud of them." ... The Royals, founded in 1969, are the fourth expansion team in history to win multiple World Series titles, joining the Mets (1969, 1986), Blue Jays (1992-93) and Marlins (1997, 2003). The Royals also won in 1985. ... Catcher Salvatore Perez (.364, .391 on-base percentage, .455 slugging percentage) was named Series MVP. He is the seventh catcher to win MVP and the first since Pat Borders of the Blue Jays in 1992. ... The Royals had eight comeback wins in the postseason and seven in which they were down by multiple runs. … Queens native Tony Bennett performed "America the Beautiful" before the game. The ceremonial first pitches were tossed by members of past World Series winners — Cleon Jones, Mookie Wilson and Darryl Strawberry. … Michael Cuddyer, who came up with the Twins and spent time in New Britain, Conn., was asked Sunday to compare David Wright with some of the great teammates he's had, including Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Todd Helton. "He's right there," Cuddyer said. "Not only is a tremendous player, tremendous person, and if he would have bounced from team to team to team, he would still be a tremendous player and a tremendous person. But the fact that he's done it for one team his whole career and in a market such as New York is impressive. And I've got all the admiration in the world for him." … Gordon, a Royal since 2007, is a free agent this winter and is expected to attract lots of attention. The Royals know the roster will change this winter. "I think we all know the reality of the business side of the game," Eric Hosmer said. "And we all realize that these opportunities don't come often. And I think that's one thing that we all really focused in on in spring training was the fact that we came so close to winning a World Series. But we have that same core group of guys, the majority group that can come back and have another opportunity to get back to this stage and then finally, hopefully, get over that hump."