NEW YORK — The kids were all right and much, much more. If only the rest of the Mets were as reliable as their rookies Saturday night, New York might be all square in this World Series.
Michael Conforto and Steven Matz did everything they could in Game 4, putting on a fresh-faced show that went to waste at Citi Field. New York squandered an eighth-inning lead and was pushed to the brink of elimination with a 5-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
"Definitely bittersweet," Conforto said. "We wanted that win."
With the Mets down 3-1 in the best-of-seven set, Matt Harvey represents their final chance Sunday night. A victory sends the Series back to Kansas City, a loss ends their storybook season one comeback short of the ultimate prize.
"Matt has to give us one of those great outings he’s capable of," manager Terry Collins said. "We’re in a tough situation, but we’re not dead yet."
Right now the last thing on Mets minds is their future, but it sure looked bright Saturday night.
Conforto busted out of his post-season swoon in a big way, hitting two home runs to help build a 3-1 lead for Matz. The local boy from Long Island held Kansas City in check on the mound until running into trouble in the sixth inning.
"I was really nervous," Matz said. "But once I got out there, I settled down and felt good."
In the end, though, it wasn’t enough.
Tyler Clippard walked consecutive batters in the eighth, and an error by second baseman Daniel Murphy helped the Royals rally for three runs. Yoenis Cespedes was doubled off first base on Lucas Duda’s soft liner for a game-ending double play.
"We just didn’t get the hits when we needed them, except for Conforto," Collins said. "This guy is going to be an outstanding offensive player. I mean, this is a great experience for him to get a lot better fast."
Before all that, things were looking up thanks to a pair of youngsters who didn’t arrive in New York until this summer, when the Mets were still sagging.
"I think it’s just trusting your ability, having confidence, and I think a lot of that stuff comes from your teammates, comes from the crowd and the atmosphere," Conforto said. "Really it just comes down to trusting that you belong and that you’re going to help the team."
Drafted just last year out of Oregon State and called up from Double-A on July 24, Conforto became the fifth rookie to hit two home runs in a World Series game and first since 19-year-old Andruw Jones for the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 opener at Yankee Stadium, according to STATS.
The others were Charlie Keller (1939) and Tony Kubek (1957) for the New York Yankees, and Willie McGee (1982) for St. Louis.
"I had a blast out there. It was real exciting, obviously," Conforto said. "It’s stuff that I’ll remember for a long time."
Conforto began the night 2 for 22 (.091) with a homer and four RBIs this post-season. He became the sixth Mets player to hit two homers in a post-season game. The previous one was Carlos Beltran in the 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals.
The only other Mets player to go deep twice in a World Series game was Hall of Famer Gary Carter against Boston at Fenway Park in 1986.
The 22-year-old Conforto didn’t face many left-handers this season, but his second homer came on a curveball from southpaw reliever Danny Duffy.
"Conforto was incredible," captain David Wright said.
Lorenzo Cain’s run-scoring single in the sixth trimmed Kansas City’s deficit to 3-2 and chased Matz, who exited with a chance to win. The 24-year-old lefty was greeted by Harvey and then walked about 10 feet before slamming down his glove on the bench with his right hand.
"The experience I’m sure for him is invaluable, because he’s going to be a big part of this rotation next year," Wright said.
Matz was making his ninth major league start, three this post-season. He woke up in his childhood home and made the Halloween commute to Citi Field, about 50 miles away.
Storybook stuff, for sure. But if the Mets don’t win Game 5, the story this season is over.
"You get that win tomorrow, you get a little momentum on your side," Wright said. "Let’s take it to Kansas City and see what happens."