By: Paul DiSclafani
Welcome to the World Series, Mets fans!
After giving away Game 1 to the Kansas City Royals and being totally outplayed in Game 2, the Mets returned home to a raucous Citi Field as they tried to make their way out of their 0-2 hole in the World Series. The Mets got two-run home runs from David Wright and Curtis Granderson and put up a four-spot in the sixth inning to ice the game and get back into the Series with a 9-3 win.
Playing a home World Series game for the first time in 15 years, rookie Noah Syndergaard set the tone for the Mets and their anxious, yet enthusiastic crowd, when he launched a 98 mph fastball over the head of Royals leadoff batter Alcides Escobar, dropping him to the ground on his rear end with his legs splayed as he stayed there for a few seconds, contemplating what had just happened. The start to the game had the Royals up in arms and they were shouting at Syndergaard from the dugout for the first few winnings.
“I didn’t like it one bit. He was saying yesterday that he had a plan against my aggressiveness. If that’s the plan, I think that’s a stupid plan,” Escobar said. “I cannot fathom a pitcher would throw to the head a 98 mph pitch on the first pitch of the game.”
“I think the whole team was pretty upset. The first pitch of the game goes whizzing by our leadoff man’s head,” Mike Moustakas said. “I think all 25 guys in that dugout were pretty fired up.”
If that fired up the Royals, they weren’t able to completely channel it onto the field. Escobar got up, dusted himself off and proceeded to flail at a 1-2 fastball as the crowd exploded. After 34 two-strike counts in Game 2 that the Royals made contact on 31 times, Syndergaard put a stop to that with the first batter. The Royals as 12 “swings and misses” against Syndergaard in Game 3 after having just 19 in the first two games combined.
After the game, both Terry Collins and catcher Travis d’Arnaud said all the right things, avoiding fanning the flames in the KC clubhouse and being coy about Syndergaard’s intent. But Syndergaard wasn’t coy at all.
“I feel like it really made a statement to start the game off, that you guys can’t dig in and get too aggressive because I’ll come in there,” said Syndergaard, who alluded Thursday to having “a few tricks” up his sleeve for the leadoff man. “My intent on that pitch was to make them uncomfortable, and I feel like I did just that. I know that for the past, I think every postseason game that Escobar has played in, he’s swung at the first-pitch fastball, and I didn’t think he would want to swing at that one.”
But Syndergaard wasn’t done yet. “I mean, I certainly wasn’t trying to hit the guy, that’s for sure. I just didn’t want him getting too comfortable,” he said before issuing a challenge that made every Met fan’s heart sing, “If they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away. I’ve got no problem with that.”
But the Royals nicked Syndergaard and the Mets for a run in the first inning, when they failed to turn a 3-6-1 double play with a man on third, taking a 1-0 lead and taking a bite out of the Citi Field crowd for the moment. But it didn’t take long to get it back.
With Yordano Venruta on the mound for the Royals, Granderson led off the Mets first with a single and Wright, who was batting just .182, launched a long home run (392 feet) into the left field stands and the Mets had the lead, 2-1. Fans and the media were calling for Wright to be dropped in the batting order, but the Captain delivered in his first home World Series appearance.
But the euphoria faded again as the Royals scored twice in the second to retake the lead with three straight singles, but Alex Gordon got greedy on Alex Rios’ RBI single and tried to go from first to third on the base hit to left. Michael Conforto, shaded into left center, got to the ball quickly and fired a strike to Wright at third, but Gordon was called safe. Wright immediately signaled for the Mets to challenge the call and he was right. Gordon was called out on review and instead of a tie game with runners on second and third with no outs, the Mets had their first out. After Ventura sacrificed Rios to third for the second out, d’Arnaud got crossed up, allowing a passed ball and giving the Royals a 3-2 lead.
Once again, the air was sucked out of the building. This was Game 1 and Game 2 rolled into each other all over again. As sharp as Syndergaard was and as good as the Mets offense looked in the first inning, they found themselves behind. Again.
What the Mets needed was a couple of shutdown innings from Syndergaard to catch their breath and get the crowd back on their side. They got that and more. Syndergaard got a 1-2-3 third inning and the Mets got the lead back.
Syndergaard led off the Mets half of the third with a solid single, fighting off an 0-2 pitch for the first time all year. Syndergaard was 0-14 with 14 strikeouts in the regular season when he was down 0-2 in the count. Four pitches later, he was trotting around the bases in front of Granderson as he pulled one right down the line and into the first row in right field to give the Mets a 4-3 lead. Not only had the Mets comeback again, so had the crowd. And this time, they wouldn’t leave again.
The Mets put runners on second and third with no outs in the 4th after d’Arnaud followed a Lucas Duda single with a double, Royals manager Ned Yost had his the infield playing back for some reason. When Michael Conforto hit a gounder to first, he beat Hosmer to the bag, scoring Duda and it was 5-3. Ventura then got Wilmer Flores to pop up, but his night was done. David Duffy came in to finish off the Mets and keep it a 2-run game.
Syndergaard continued to do his job, getting the next 12 Royals in a row, striking out Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer swinging to start the 6th inning. But Moustakas put one up the middle that Daniel Murphy was able to smother, but could not make a throw on to reach first. Syndergaard then walked Salvador Perez to put two runners on. He then walked Gordon on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases and raise the anxiety level of the fans to 10. Collins decided to roll the dice with Syndergaard, who got Rios to ground out to Flores to end last threat the Royals would have.
With the Mets into the vaunted Royals bullpen, this was shaping up to be a nail biter. Franklin Morales got the first out of the sixth, but then ran into trouble after Juan Lagares singled. He hit Flores in the foot to put runners on first and second, bringing up Juan Uribe to pinch hit for Syndergaard. Uribe was put on the WS Roster, but had not appeared in a game since September 25th. Uribe came through with a base hit, scoring the flying Lagares to make it 6-3. Granderson then bounced one back to the mound that Morales snagged, but he had a brain freeze and looked at every base before finally throwing it almost into centerfield. Now the bases were loaded for Wright and Morales was finished as Kelvin Hererra came in.
Wright wasted no time, jumping on Hererra’s first pitch and depositing it into center, scoring Flores and Uribe to make it 8-3. Later in the inning, Yoenis Cespedes finished things off with a sacrifice fly to make it 9-3.
The Mets bullpen of Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard and Jeruys Familia finished off the final three innings 1-2-3 and just like that, the Mets are back in the World Series, trailing 2-1.
Rookie Steven Matz will try to get the Mets even in Game 4 and turn things over to Matt Harvey on Sunday night for Game 5 and the final baseball game at Citi Field this year. The Mets are very familiar with Royals starter Chris Young, who played for them in 2011 and 2011. Young was the winning pitcher in Game 1, shutting down the Mets in three innings of relief.
It’s going to be interesting…