The old baseball adage is that, “Good pitching always beats good hitting.” Not so fast, say the Kansas City Royals.
Surely after this World Series ends, whether the Royals win or lose, newly hired general managers will be shifting the way they build their ball clubs to feature more contact-driven lineups. All season long the Mets' core of young power pitchers bullied their way to an NL East crown, but they may have met their match in the Royals.
Mets’ Game 2 starter Jacob deGrom, who has been nothing short of outstanding this postseason, was lit up, inducing a career low of just three swings and misses from opposing batters. As Tom Verducci brilliantly noted during the game’s broadcast on FOX, deGrom was unable to create a single swing and a miss when throwing a fastball to the Royals’ hitters.
Kansas City manager Ned Yost’s decision to start Johnny Cueto at Kauffman Stadium looks brilliant, as Cueto was the first AL pitcher to throw a complete game in the World Series since Jack Morris’ miraculous performance in 1991.
Now, the series shifts back to Flushing, N.Y., on Friday night where the hometown Mets face an 0-2 hole. Every ball player will tell you during the postseason that every game is a must-win, but the way the Royals are swinging the bat it feels as if the Mets are playing with borrowed innings.
World Series Game 3: Kansas City Royals at New York Mets
Time: 8 p.m. ET (Friday)
Pitching Matchup: RH Yordano Ventura (13-8, 4.08 ERA) vs. RH Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.24)
Three Things to Watch
1. Mound Matchup
After the departure of James Shields in the offseason, it was thought that Yordano Ventura would be the new ace for the Royals. Things haven’t quite worked out that way. Ventura struggled in 2015, which included a short stint in the minors to work on mechanics. Ventura’s regular season struggles have continued into the postseason. In four starts, he has surrendered 10 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings. Look for the Mets to swing early and often against the flame-throwing righty.
Noah Syndergaard, aka "Thor," is being tasked with keeping the Mets afloat, a task that seems as daunting as ever against the Royals' scorching-hot bats. Syndergaard has been impressive so far in his first postseason action. In three playoff appearances (two starts), Syndergaard has a 2.77 ERA and WHIP of 1.07. Syndergaard hasn't pitched in 11 days, so his arm should be well rested. Look for Syndergaard to pitch backwards, relying on his breaking pitches early in counts to induce ground balls instead of trying to burn fastballs by the Kansas City hitters.
2. Alcides Escobar continues to rake
As if hitting an inside-the-park home run on the first pitch he saw wasn't enough, (Why did you throw a first-pitch fastball for a strike, Matt Harvey?! You knew Escobar was going to swing at the first pitch!) the Royals' shortstop and leadoff man kept adding to his postseason success with two more hits and two more RBIs in Game 2, including the game-tying RBI in the fifth inning and a triple in the eighth.
So far this postseason, Escobar is hitting .364/.383/.582, with a .965 OPS, 12 runs, three doubles and three triples. Every October it seems, a role player comes to the forefront and turns into a shooting star for his team. So far, it seems that we can add Escobar to the list of names like Aaron Boone and David Freese.
3. Did the Mets forget how to hit?
Johnny Cueto was fantastic and near unhittable in Game 2, I’ll grant the Mets that. But even before Cueto’s complete game gem, the Mets’ offense wasn’t anything special. Coming into the World Series, the Mets were hitting just .207 as a team, outside of Daniel Murphy. Now, Murphy has regressed from his impersonation of Babe Ruth and is now back to being the Murphy we all remember. So who steps up for the Mets?
The Mets have a deep enough lineup that it could be anyone. The obvious answer would be Yoenis Cespedes. In October, Cespedes is hitting just .227 and slugging .386 with three extra-base hits. If the Mets want to get back into this series, Cespedes’ power stroke will be vital.
Two other Mets that could afford to be better are catcher Travis d’Arnaud and first baseman Lucas Duda. d’Arnaud missed almost 100 games in the regular season but played very well when he was healthy. The young backstop has struggled mightily this October, hitting just .186 in the playoffs with eight hits. Three of those hits have been home runs, something the Mets could desperately use.
Duda had a solid 2015 season, hitting 27 home runs with 73 RBIs and a .838 OPS, and through two World Series games is hitting .444 with four hits in nine at-bats. But he has just one RBI. Simply put, the Mets aren’t getting on base.
The Mets’ offense has a great opportunity to take advantage of Ventura, as the Royals' young hurler can be erratic with his control and is very capable of getting hit hard early. And since Syndergaard is coming off an extended period of rest, I like the Mets to take Game 3 and get the home-field advantage back to even going forward. That being said, the Royals' lockdown bullpen is going to be completely fresh thanks to Cueto's complete game, so if the Mets are going to strike, they need to strike early.
Prediction: Mets 6, Royals 4
— 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.