Earlier this summer, the Mets were being written off. They were too banged up, and lacked any tangible run support that could balance out their fantastic pitching rotation. After July, the Mets sat at an uninspiring 53-50 in the underwhelming NL East. With the addition of Yoenis Cespedes in a trade from Detroit, the call up of Michael Conforto, and the return of lineup staples Travis d’Arnaud and captain David Wright, things started to click for manager Terry Collins’ team. The Mets went on to win 36 games in August and September and stole the NL East crown from the heavily favored Washington Nationals. With the offense finally clicking with the pitching, the Mets defeated the Dodgers in the NLDS in five games, and absolutely dominated the Chicago Cubs in a four-game sweep in the NLCS.
The Mets have not won a World Series title since the infamous 1986 Fall Classic that featured the “Buckner Game” against the Boston Red Sox. Since then, the Mets have been up and down for the most part, winning just two division titles, and appearing in one World Series, a four-game sweep at the hands of their crosstown rival, the New York Yankees, in 2000.
The Royals were the darlings of baseball last season, making their first postseason appearance since they won the World Series in 1985. After over a generation of futility, the Royals have proven that they are a baseball powerhouse, earning their second consecutive World Series trip after last year’s crushing seven-game defeat to the San Francisco Giants thanks to a historic performance from Madison Bumgarner.
In an era of “new school” baseball, the Royals’ playing style resembles that of their “old school” manager, Ned Yost. Kansas City is arguably the best defensive team in baseball with guys like Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Ben Zobrist, who are all Gold Glove-caliber. For all their defensive prowess, those same Royals get the job done at the plate as well, stringing together hits to go along with a disciplined hitting approach from the top of the order to the No. 9 spot.
New York Mets vs. Kansas City Royals
Tuesday, Oct. 27
Matt Harvey vs. Edinson Volquez
Wednesday, Oct. 28
Jacob deGrom vs. Johnny Cueto
Friday, Oct. 30
Yordano Ventura vs. Noah Syndergaard
Saturday, Oct. 31
Chris Young vs. Steven Matz
Sunday, Nov. 1
Edinson Volquez vs. Undecided
Tuesday, Nov. 3
Undecided vs. Undecided
Wednesday, Nov. 4
Undecided vs. Undecided
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Murphy’s and Escobar’s Bats Stay Hot?
To say that Daniel Murphy’s historic postseason hot streak is surprising is the understatement of the decade. Even the man himself can’t explain it. How does a career .288 batter rake .421/.436/1.026 with 16 hits, seven home runs, a 1.462 OPS and 11 RBIs when the games count the most? Most of those home runs came against three of the NL Cy Young Award front-runners in Jake Arrieta, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and another against perennial All-Star lefty Jon Lester. After essentially single-handedly beating the Dodgers in the NLDS, Murphy kept his unprecedented hot stretch going, hitting .529/.556/1.294 with an 1.850 OPS against the baseball darling Cubs while running away with NLCS MVP honors. Murphy’s six straight games with a postseason home run is now a major league record. It is safe to say that someone is going to extremely over pay for Murphy, a pending free agent, after the season.
The Royals have their own catalyst at the top of their lineup in shortstop Alcides Escobar. The ALCS MVP, Escobar got the job done in the field and at the plate. He set a postseason record by getting a leadoff hit in the first four games of the ALCS, hitting .478/.481/.652 with a 1.134 OPS with 11 hits and six runs scored against the Blue Jays. Escobar’s postseason rampage was almost as surprising as Murphy’s, as Escobar only hit .257/.293/.320 this season. If the Royals are going to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy they will need their leadoff man to do some more damage in the World Series, especially against a Mets rotation that shut down the Cubs' leadoff hitters in the NLCS.
2. Mets’ Power Pitching vs. Royals' Deep Lineup
The Mets may have the best collection of young arms in the vast history of baseball. That is a heavy statement, but could very well ring true with a World Series championship being built on such young and talented arms. The rotation featuring young superstars Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom held the high-powered Cubs offense that blasted the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS to no more than three runs in a game in the NLCS. Mets pitchers dominated the young, free-swinging Cubs with 39 strikeouts in their four-game sweep, a task that will be next to impossible to replicate against the Royals, who struck out less than any other team in baseball in 2015.
The Royals' offense has been the best of the postseason teams, leading the way with 63 runs, 99 hits, 164 total bases, 58 RBIs, and a team average of .271/.328/.449 with an OPS of .779, all while striking out 14 times fewer than any other team that made it to a league championship series. The 15 home runs that the Royals have hit thus far in the postseason have been somewhat surprising, but not shocking as Kansas City used the long ball last October to its benefit too. But the Royals' power numbers could take a hit when the series moves to Citi Field starting in Game 3, and DH Kendrys Morales moves to the bench. Morales has hit four home runs and knocked in 10 this postseason.
3. Royal Rotation Concerns
If the Mets are going to do any damage against the Royals, it has to be done offensively in the first seven innings before Ned Yost can go to his bullpen and essentially end the game six outs early. Murphy's surprising offensive run has carried the Mets’ offense through two series, but if the Mets want to bring home their first World Series title since 1986, the rest of the lineup must deliver. Without Murphy’s gaudy numbers the Mets are hitting just .207 in the playoffs. But the Mets' lineup has a chance to come alive against a Royals rotation that has given up 48 hits and 29 walks with an ERA of 5.56 to the Astros and Blue Jays.
After last season’s World Series Game 7 loss, the Royals have proven they are no one-hit wonder. Kansas City dominated the AL Central from start to finish and ended the season with 95 wins thanks to a disciplined starting lineup, great defense, and a lights-out bullpen. While the Mets' story has been a fun ride to watch, especially since the trade deadline, it seems the Royals matchup favorably against the NL champs. If the Mets’ pitching staff can shut down the Royals’ deep lineup, they’ll more than likely take the series in a slew of low-scoring games. But New York has yet to face such a well-rounded, versatile and deep lineup like the Royals this postseason.
Prediction: Royals in 6 Games
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.