The Kansas City Royals are back in the World Series after falling one run short in Game 7 of last year's Fall Classic. The Royals will take on the New York Mets. It's the first World Series between two teams from baseball’s Expansion Era. Game 1 is Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
What Everyone’s Talking About
The young power arms in the Mets’ starting rotation: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz. Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard combined to throw 38 percent of their pitches this season at 95 mph or faster. In the Division Series and Championship Series, the four starters recorded 71 strikeouts in 55 1/2 innings pitched. But the Mets racked up those strikeouts in the Championship Series against a Chicago Cubs team that led the league in whiffing at the plate. The Royals? Their batters struck out the fewest times all season.
What About the Royals’ Starters
Meh. Which is a nice way of saying that Kansas City's rotation can't sniff the Mets’ starters' jockstraps. The Royals acquired Johnny Cueto at the trade deadline to be their postseason ace. In three October starts, Cueto threw one gem and two duds. The gem clinched the Division Series against the Houston Astros, so kudos to Cueto for good timing. Veteran Edinson Volquez has also pitched one very good game so far. Hard-throwing youngster Yordano Ventura is most like the Mets' starters, except Ventura hasn’t been able to maintain his fastball velocity or his effectiveness deep into games this postseason.
How Will the Royals Score Runs
Kansas City's hitters put the ball in play, hustle down the line and make the defense work. They take the extra base on a hit when the defense lags for just a second. And they steal bases at a pretty good clip. Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain fuel this legs-first approach. But it’s not all contact and speed. The Royals have some mashers, too, in Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales, and Alex Gordon. All but Morales hit from the left side of the plate, which will work to their advantage at CitiField in New York, which favors left-handed power hitters.
Won’t the Mets Crush Royals' Pitching
Maybe. New York’s offense woke up in late July when the team acquired outfielder Yoenis Cepedes from the Detroit Tigers. Cespedes whacked 17 home runs in 57 games for the Metropolitans and fueled their ride to the postseason. But Cespedes has hit a pedestrian .265 in the postseason, with only two home runs. Daniel Murphy’s been the unexpected star at the plate for New York. Murphy broke a major league record by hitting a home run in six consecutive postseason games, from Game 4 of the Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, through the four games of the Championship Series against the Cubs. And while CitiField helps left-handed home-run hitters like Murphy, Kauffman Stadium decidedly does not. The Royals’ home ballpark, in fact, was the sixth most difficult stadium in which to hit home runs this season.
It Will All Come Down To the Bullpens
And this is where the Royals have a huge edge. As much as their starters lack consistency and pizzazz, Kansas City's bullpen is a masterwork of velocity and movement. Wade Davis moved into the closer role in August after an injury to Greg Holland. No problem. Davis has given up no runs on two hits and ten strikeouts in six 2/3 postseason innings. He's backed up by Kelvin Herrera, who tops 100 mph with his fastball like it's no big deal, and veterans Ryan Madson and Luke Hochevar, both of whom have overcome recent injuries. Mets closer Jeurys Familia can match Davis pitch for pitch. In nine 2/3 postseason innings, Familia has been lights out: no runs on two hits and six strikeouts. But getting from the starters to Familia isn’t that easy. Middle relievers Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard don’t have strikeout stuff, and when they give up contact, it can be loud. The key may be Bartolo Colon, the 42-year-old who makes a guy with #DadBod look like Adonis. Colon has been a starter for the entirety of his 18-year MLB career, but he's been used out of the bullpen in the postseason, with decent results.
The Most Important Fact of All
The Royals last won the World Series in 1985. The Mets last one it in 1986. Whoever wins will bring a long championship drought to an end and delight their fans. The other will have to wait until next year.