No folks, you’re not dreaming. Hell has frozen over, cats and dogs are living together, renovation on the Sojourner Truth Library has been completed and the New York Mets are in the World Series. Their opponent, the now two-time defending American League Champion Kansas City Royals.
On the road to the World Series the Mets had to take down the Washington Nationals, who everyone picked to win the World Series this year — the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs. They are all very tough opponents, but the Royals are nothing like any of those teams.
The Royals may not have the electric starting pitching that the Nationals and Dodgers had, and they may not have the some powerhouse lineup that the Cubs featured, but they made it here for a reason. Yes, their lineup has pop, but their best asset is their ability to just keep the line moving. That lineup will find ways to get hits and keep the inning going, tormenting the opposing pitcher. They’ve got speed too, as the Royals ranked second in the American League with 104 stolen bases this season.
But the strongest part of their team is the bullpen. The Royals are able to make nine-inning games into six-inning games, because if you’re behind the Royals late in the game you are not catching up. Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson and Franklin Morales all had ERAs below 3.20 this season. Then there’s Wade Davis, who took over the closer role after Greg Holland went down to injury. Davis sported a jaw-dropping 0.94 ERA this season and has yet to allow a run this postseason.
This Royals team has plenty of heart and experience too. Back on Monday, Oct. 12 the Royals were playing Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros. The Astros held a 2-1 advantage in the series and a 6-2 lead going into the eighth inning, putting the Royals six outs away from elimination. The Royals scored five runs in that eighth inning to take a 7-6 lead, and they scored all of their runs without a single extra base hit. That’s what I meant when I said their offense knows how to keep the line moving, their slap-stick offense has proven to be very effective. They are a very difficult team to shut the door on.
The one weakness of this Royals team is their inconsistent starting pitching. The two pitchers that best exemplify this are Yordano Ventura and Johnny Cueto. Ventura looked to be the Royals’ future ace after a great season last year, but this season has been a different story. Along with being sent down to the minor leagues this season, Ventura was involved in some controversial incidents where he was seen cursing at opposing players. The Royals traded for Johnny Cueto after he posted a 2.62 ERA for the Reds in the first half of this season. He proceeded to post a 4.76 ERA for the Royals for the rest of the season. Of Cueto’s three starts this postseason before the World Series, he only looked good in one of them. His Game 5 start in the American League Division Series against the Astros was fantastic, but his other two starts ranged from subpar to dreadful. If the Royals are to win this series, Ventura and Cueto need to step up big time.
The Mets are obviously a much more traditional team. Their offense has plenty of power, they have a solid bullpen, and their starting pitching is absolutely electric. Expect the Mets offense to pounce on the Royals’ adequate starting pitching in the first half of the game. But that Royals lineup is more than capable of scoring a few runs off the Mets starting pitching. If it comes down to a battle of the bullpens, the Royals have the clear edge. Jeurys Familia has been amazing for the Mets and hadn’t allowed a run this postseason before the World Series, but setup man Tyler Clippard has struggled and the Mets lack a lefty specialist out of the bullpen. If the Mets are to win this series, the key will be their starters working around the chaos the Royals offense will cause them and their ability to work deep into games.
In Game 1, the Mets lost a heartbreaking 14-inning game against the Royals by a score of 5-4. The game went into the ninth-inning with the Mets up 4-3. Familia gave up his first run this postseason, a game-tying blast to Alex Gordon. This was Familia’s first blown save since July 30 against the San Diego Padres. The Mets would lose the game in the 14th inning on a walk-off sacrifice fly by Eric Hosmer.
In Game 2 the Mets suffered a 7-1 defeat against the Royals. Cueto was masterful as he pitched a complete game and surrendered just one run. The victory put the Royals up 2-0 in the series, putting them two wins away from winning their first World Series since 1985.
Game 3 will be on Friday, Oct. 30 at the Mets’ home, Citi Field. Noah Syndergaard will start for the Mets in what is essentially a must-win game. Syndergaard has been great thus far, posting a 2.77 ERA this postseason. But the Royals have proven they can hit the best starting pitching that the Mets have to offer.
Overcoming a 2-0 series deficit is tough, but not impossible. But a 3-0 deficit is a different story, except for the 2004 Boston Red Sox. If the Mets lose Game 3, this series is practically over. If they win, they still have a long ways to go. The lone bright spot is that the Mets will have home field advantage for the next three games. But they need more than home field advantage, they need to win. We’ll see if the Mets still have some fight in them, or if this seemingly magical season ends in pathetic fashion.