The New York Mets are a desperate team heading into Game 3 of the World Series, having dropped the first two games to the Kansas City Royals. The National League champs are in a virtual “must-win” situation when they return home to Citi Field on Friday night.
With New York’s championship hopes hanging in the balance, the team turns to a rookie starting pitcher. Noah Syndergaard didn’t even begin the 2015 season on the Mets’ 25-man roster, and now he stands between New York and a 0-3 World Series deficit.
Syndergaard was one of MLB’s best rookies in the regular season, and he’s looked like a veteran in the playoffs. He lost Game 2 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers amid Chase Utley’s now-infamous slide, but he’s put up terrific postseason numbers. In two starts and one relief appearance, Syndergaard has a .277 ERA in 13 innings, allowing 14 base runners and striking out 20 batters.
The Mets’ top two starters didn’t get the job done in Kansas City. Matt Harvey relinquished a sixth-inning lead in Game 1, giving up three runs and leaving the contest in the hands of the bullpen. On Wednesday, Jacob deGrom looked like the long season finally caught up with him, surrendering four runs in five innings.
Syndergaard's explosive fastball is a large part of his success, and he throws it with the highest average velocity of any pitcher in baseball. The Royals entered the Fall Classic with MLB’s best average against pitches of at least 95 mph, and they’ve had success against New York’s flamethrowers through two games.
Kansas City's lived up to their reputation as a team that makes contact. In two games that have spanned 23 innings, the Royals have struck out just 10 times, compared to the Mets, who have gone down on strikes 19 times. Good things have happened for Kansas City by simply putting the ball in play. The Mets have committed two errors, one of which led to the Royals scoring the game-winning run in the series opener, and a misplayed ball by Yoenis Cespedes resulted in an inside-the-park home run for Alcides Escobar.
The Mets’ bats will have Yordano Ventura to contend with. Ventura was Kansas City’s No.1 starter to begin the postseason, but he hasn't pitched anything like an ace, posting a 5.09 ERA in four starts, never making it out of the sixth inning. He’ll face an offense that didn’t do much damage at Kauffman Stadium.
New York has only scored four earned runs in the World Series, and they are hitting .165 as a team. Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares have six of the Mets’ 13 hits, and the team will need more production from the middle of their lineup if they hope to get back in this series.
Daniel Murphy doesn’t have a home run this series after hitting one in each of his previous six games. The second baseman was bound to cool off after an historic run, and he’s two-for nine with four strikeouts. Cespedes has been the most disappointing Met, getting a hit in just one of his 10 at-bats. The outfielder was New York’s best player in the final two months of the season, but he’s been underwhelming in the playoffs, hitting .227 with a .631 OPS.
The Royals are heavily favored to win the series, but they are road underdogs in Game 3. Las Vegas sportsbooks are giving Kansas City +125 betting odds to take a 3-0 series lead, while New York is a -135 favorite, according to vegasinsider.com.
The Royals have been able to neutralize the Mets’ starters by putting the ball in play and taking advantage of New York’s mistakes. New York could be in trouble if Syndergaard struggles like deGrom did, but the Mets should be able to score off Ventura. The series would be tied if Jeurys Familia didn’t blow a save, and it isn’t likely that the closer will give up another lead if given the opportunity.
New York over Kansas City, 5-3