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…
By: Paul DiSclafani
I can’t wait to get to Game 3 so I can stop answering questions about what happened to the Mets in Games 1 and 2.
I know, we all know. The Mets gave away Game 1 of the World Series to the Royals and then were embarrassed by Johnny Cueto in Game 2, giving the Royals a 2-0 advantage. That’s the facts as I know them.
But there is a saying in any seven game series that the series doesn’t really start until the home team loses a game. The Royals are a really good team, remember? It would have been nice to win a game in Kansas City and would have been great to win both games, but who really thought that was going to happen?
Well, I did, but that doesn’t matter. I’m a fan, you know.
You got to play the cards that are dealt you and right now, the Mets are not where they thought they would be. But let’s talk about how important this Game 3 is for both teams, shall we?
In any seven game series, Game 3 is pivotal for both teams, regardless of the outcome of Games 1 and 2. Here’s why:
- One team is leaving the confines of their own ballpark, their raucous fans and their own bed. The other team is heading home to their ballpark, their raucous fans and their own beds. You don’t think that is a big deal? It doesn’t matter if you play better on the road or at home, the World Series is a BIG event. We are talking League Championship here. One team is getting out of their comfort zone and the other team is settling into theirs.
- In baseball, there is a huge tactical advantage to playing at home because you get last licks. And in the World Series, there is no DH in the National League park. Not only does that change how you manage your pitchers and your batting order, but for the AL Club, your DH could be a problem. There is a reason why he’s your DH – he most likely is not good at catching the ball. And for the NL Club, they just don’t know who to use or how to use them as a DH. It’s like having a pinch hitter every three innings, only you can use the same guy.
- For the NL, it’s three consecutive games in their wheelhouse – pitching changes, double switches, managing the bench. For the AL team, well, it’s just not the same game they play all year-long.
- Even with the advent of Inter-Division games, the NL teams don’t know a lot about the AL teams and vice-versa. If the Mets and Nationals had met in the NLCS, they would know so much about each other there would be no surprises. But the only things these two teams know about each other they have heard from other people. They have seen video, read scouting reports, but have not lined up against them. Now they have seen each other twice. We’ve seen their best pitchers and they have seen ours. The batters have had 8-10 AB’s. When the first plane hit the Twin Towers, you weren’t sure what was happening. But when the second one hit, there was no doubt we were under attack. There are no more surprises from these two teams. Game 3 will be all about baseball.
- Games 4, 5, 6 and 7 all have their level of importance in any seven game series. As a matter of fact, Games 5, 6 and 7 contain that dreaded “if necessary” asterisk. But Game 3 is pivotal for a number of reasons, regardless of what happened in the first two games. It’s the last game in the series that anyone can lose without having to worry about being eliminated.
- The team that is up 2-0 can take a stranglehold on the series with a win in Game 3. Yeah, I know that being down 3-0 still means you have a chance, but come on! What chance do you really have? Oh sure, coaches and players will all stay the right things – “one game at a time”, “win every inning” – it’s all crap and the fans know it. Mathematically, going down in a series 3-0 is not elimination, but mentally it is.
- The team that is down 2-0 can get back into the series with a win. This scenario doesn’t change the momentum of the series, but does get the losing team back into it.
- If the series is tied 1-1, the winning team can get some momentum from this win going into Game 4.
So let’s get back to the situation at hand, shall we.
Down 2-0 in the series, the Mets are in a “must win” situation. But they are playing at home and that has to be a factor. Ask the Dodgers what they thought about playing at Citi Field, ask the Cubs. Noah Syndergaard is so highly regarded by the Mets brass that they considered having him start Game 1 of the World Series because he has been that good. Syndergaard has 20K’s in his 13 postseason innings and has given up just 4 runs (2.77 ERA), three of them against the Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLDS.
The Royals will be without their DH Kendrys Morales, who drove in 106 runs in the regular season and will be starting Yordano Ventura, who is 0-1 in his 4 postseason starts, giving up 20 hits, 3 HR, 8 walks and 10 runs in his 17.2 innings (5.09 ERA). He has hit 102 on the radar gun, but the 24 year-old has been an enigma on the field, challenging opposing players and umpires, getting fired up and sometimes off his game. He plays with a lot of emotion and the NY Crowd will be looking to get under his skin. He has been called a headhunter by a lot of opposing players.
The Mets have to solve the mystery of the Royals batting prowess. These guys just do not strike out. Both Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom found out the hard way that this team is different. All year, they have been able to rear back and get a strikeout when they needed it. Not in Games 1 and 2. In Game 2, the Mets pitchers threw 34 pitches to batters that had two strikes on them, and 31 times the KC player swung and made contact. Two watched a called strike 3, and the other was a swing and a miss.
Now it’s do-or-die for the Mets. Game 3 does that to you when you are down 2-0. Their season is in the hands of a guy who didn’t make the team out of Spring Training. This team has played on the cusp of disaster all year-long, pulling out of a spiral and turning things around.
Let’s hope they can do it one more time.
Recently MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark indicated that there will be renewed discussions with the league, owners etc. with regards to implementing the Designated Hitter in the National League. The National League is the only league remaining in the world that does not use a DH. You might be shocked to know that nearly all the minor leagues in the National League use a DH. I have long held the position that the DH should have been implemented in the National League back in 1973 when it became a rule in the American League. Contrary to popular belief by the baseball “traditionalist” out there the DH was first proposed in the National League as early as 1891. William Chase Temple, the co-owner of the Pirates first proposed the idea to the National League rules committee. In 1928 the National League president John Heydler also took a swing at it without getting anywhere. The league, owners and managers recognized very early on that the majority of pitchers were simply not competitive at the plate.
There are many reasons at the MLB level that I feel it should be used in both leagues. Making the case for the DH goes far deeper then what is happening at the MLB level. However, I will mention a few of those reasons first and then go into the much deeper ones.
Inter-league and World Series: The use or non-use of the DH creates a disadvantage for American League teams that spend nearly an entire season playing the game one way and then have to change. Where are all the supporters of the “integrity of the game” issues now?
A better product to watch: Sorry National League fans but when I see 7, 8 and 9 coming up in the order in your league it is time to go get a beer or hit the men’s room. Pitchers are generally automatic outs and when they get a hit the announcers laugh and the players in the dugout laugh. What does that tell you? It tells me that a pitcher hitting is not taken seriously in any way shape or form at the MLB level. In over 5000 at bats in 2014 the pitchers hit for a combined average of .124. I am pretty sure that I can do better than that!
Lack of strategy in the game: Don’t you dare try to even use this argument. Nobody spends money on high ticket prices then jumps in their car, heads out to the stadium for several hours and says “boy oh boy, I can’t wait to see Matt Harvey sacrifice bunt in the 7th inning”. People do not watch baseball to see if a pitcher can get a bunt down or to see if a manager will pinch hit for somebody. If that is what you are into then I think checkers should be a spectator sport for you.
I could go on and on with many more reasons related to the playing and watching of Major League games and why the National League should have the DH. However there are more far reaching reasons why this makes sense to finally stop the madness.
I am 50 years old but I can remember my high school and college baseball days pretty well. The pitchers, generally speaking, did not hit in the batting order and that was in the mid 1980’s. The transformation at those levels was probably already well in place by that time. Even the worst pitcher in the majors was likely a star pitcher early on in his life. So as is the case with star pitchers that by the time they get to junior high the emphasis became more on the pitching and not the hitting. As I previously stated this was going on when I was playing high school and college ball over 30 years ago. Unless the pitcher was just an incredible hitter most coaches preferred to keep his star pitcher off the base paths and out of the batter’s box. The coach got the piece of mind that his pitcher had less risk of an injury as well as keeping the legs fresh for the pitching. In addition to that the coach got the flexibility of getting another player on the field in the form of a DH. Right or wrong this is what started 35+ years ago in high school, college and summer leagues all over this country. The results of this change in how games are managed at the lowest of levels has translated into pitchers that are worse hitters today than in 1891 when the subject was first broached by the Pirates owner in the National League.
We have created a scenario where the results could only and have only become increasingly bad. The future MLB pitcher stops hitting regularly at about age 14. Let’s say he arrives in the majors at age 24. To get to that point of high level play you can bet your bottom dollar that the pitcher spent all his time working on pitching and not hitting. Now you are asking that pitcher to pick up a bat and face Clayton Kershaw 3 or 4 times in a game and have some success when the guy has not swung a bat in 10 years. To add insult to injury now you are asking that same pitcher to hit in a game once every 5 or 6 days and be successful at it. This does not make a whole lot of sense now does it ? It is hard enough for back up catchers and the fifth outfielder on a team to do well once a week and they have been hitting there entire lives. Not to mention they take BP every day to hone their skills which pitchers do not do.
It is far past the time for the DH to make its National League debut. I don’t think it is a question of if anymore but a question of when. I think it will be in place in less than 3 years. So get your last final looks at Bartolo Colon taking his hacks folks. All the fans that don’t want the DH should jump out of your seat as much as possible, while you still can, when you watch your pitcher foul off the third strike on a bunt attempt . Soon these non competitive embarrassing at bats will become a thing of the past. It has long past the time for this to happen.
Houston fans know the drill. If you were born here you were weary last night. You were worried even when the Astros went up 2-0. You winced when KC went up 4-2 and even when our ace hit the mound you were sweating out every pitch like a “D” student at a spelling bee. Even after the three run HR Morales blasted to put the game away we still hoped. But secretly we brought up all the demons of Houston sports history. We thought about the 6-2 lead on Monday that was blown, the sweep of the Astros ten years ago in their only World Series appearance, The Buffalo Bills comeback on the Oilers, the fact that our only two championships, the 94-95 Rockets, are belittled by the national media because Air Jordan was retired (We would have beaten them anyway IMHO). All this bled into our minds, and out our eyes as tears fell and washed away our championship dreams. Take heed Houston fans, Astros fans…Our struggle may be real but this team is for real too…
By most standards and predictions this team was at best a 3rd place team in the division but certainly wouldn’t be playing anything meaningful in August much less October. They had been the laughing stock, the joke, the butt of all jokes for seasons full of futility. 100 losses were the norm. It was that short guy and the rest of them who shouldn’t even be on a major league roster. It was who is going to manage that hot mess? Will they even have an All-Star representative? Will their starting pitching even be able to get an out? Bullpen? They strike out too much, can’t get anyone out and will be lucky to get to 60 wins. Fast forward to today.
Our starting rotation produced a 20 game, Kuechel, and a 19 game, McHugh, winner. Fiers pitched a no hitter and Kazmir was AL pitcher of the month in July. Our 5th arm McCullers produced a respectable 3.22 ERA and would have been the winning pitcher had the bullpen not blown the lead Monday. Our team posted the 6th best fielding percentage in the Majors. And our offense was 2nd in OPS, Slugging, Homeruns and 6th in RBI’s and Runs. They set a team record 21 runs scored in a late season tilt versus the Diamondbacks. They also have the probable Rookie of the year and star in the making in Correa who looks to be a fixture at SS for a decade or more at least.
This team broke through in a big way. And despite obvious needs in the bullpen and a high average bat, this team is built to win. They are brash, young, and just got a taste of that postseason honey. They will return most of their core next season and will be among the favorites for another postseason run in 2016. In other words, the sun has set on this season, but hope will spring anew and the Astros for once in a long time will have their fair share of it next Spring. And even though as fans we struggle with being a fan we know this team is and will be for REAL too. Take your trophy and… Wait Til Next Year…
Congrats on a great season. See you next year.
Bad News Bears-The Bad News Bears (1976) Dir. Michael Ritchie
Congrats Astros- ABC Channel 13 Houston
By: Trey Looney
There is no denying the upstart team that the Astros have become this season is part über talent, part youth, and part general attitude. This team is made up of fantastic talent; Built for speed and power, Nails defense, Lively arms. It’s built from homegrown talent where most players are still under their original contracts. (Besides the cubs the youngest team in playoffs) And attitude??? Call it Mojo, moxy, luck, dumb luck, enchantment, wizardry etc…but this team doesn’t know any better. They don’t know to shy away. They don’t know to pucker. They don’t understand intimidation. This team has risen from the depths of 100 loss seasons and they truly feel they can keep rising as long as they believe. AND AJ Hinch has anchored that belief. Molded it. Directed it. Sold it up and down that clubhouse so much so that the buy in is complete and total. This is a team that believes it can win. And that now is the time…
And on AJ Hinch, his hunches have played out beautifully over the last month. So much so they should be called Hinches rather than Hunches. A few cases on that point:
Hinch 1-Continue to believe in a bullpen even when they are struggling to close the season out.
Hinch 2-Sit one of your trade line acquisitions (Gomez) the last month of the season and bring him back for a payback HR in the wildcard game.
Hinch 3-Pitch your ace on 3 days rest and leave him in with 2 on and 2 out in the 6th to face the most dangerous Yankee hitter in A-Rod (of course after going to the mound for a “heartbeat” check.)
Hinch 4-Leaning on Carter who had struggled at the plate all year only to transform himself to HR hitting, On base percentage giant to close the year.
His fingerprints are all over this team. Which is precisely why the rotation decisions should surprise no one going into the playoff series vs the Royals. With McHugh pitching game 1 and a surprise Kazmir for game 2 in KC. Hinch is banking on stealing one in KC and he has a 19 game winner to start and a player who faded the last part of the year pitching in game 2. The Hinch here is that Scott Kazmir has pitched well against this team before. (7 innings, 0 earned runs and only 3 hits, all singles in his Astros Debut) This also sets up Kuechel in game 3 at home where he is undefeated this season. The thought is possibly to bring Kuechel back in the 5th game if necessary on 3 days rest again. (The game 4 and 5 SP’s have not been announced at this point)
First off the Royals starting pitching is hittable. They posted a collective 4.34 ERA which is the highest of all the playoff participants (Astros starters combined for a 3.42 ERA). KC’s bullpen however is a different story and why they like close and late games. The Royals who cruised through the AL last playoffs in a similar run to what the Astros would like this season are still dangerous and now come in with some experience in playoff games. Both teams this season scored a similar amount of runs but they do it in different fashions. KC base by base- Contact hitting, put the ball in play-see what happens. Astros like to take all 4 bases at once, and if they only get 1 they are likely to steal the next one. The Astros strikeout a lot, The Royals very little. The Astros walk a lot, The Royals very little. This bodes well for the Astros strong defense but also means they might have a few warning track fly-outs in pitcher friendly KC. The key will be who gets the timely hit and if the Royals can avoid giving up a big inning early to the Astros who will be looking to post crooked numbers against their starters in these contests.
The Astros owned the season series winning it 4-2 while posting a 3-0 advantage at home. This is a close matchup on paper but I think the Astros will steal one in KC which will set them up to close it out in Houston. Astros advance in this series in 4 games.
Photo Credit- Foxnews.com