For the first time in 15 years the New York Mets will take the field in the World Series. For the first time this Postseason, they’ll take on a team that can actually hit them.
It’s only fitting that on the anniversary that both the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals won their World Series titles in Game 7 in 1986 and 1985, respectively, that both teams who haven’t won a title since will take the field at Kauffman Stadium in hopes to end one of their championship droughts.
Although the Royals were here in the Fall Classic last year, they haven’t faced a team like the Mets who will send out four ace pitchers throughout the best-of-seven series, as opposed to facing just one in Madison Bumgarner with the Giants last year who denied the Royals their first title three decades.
The Mets pitching staff has been one of the best in baseball all year long and, especially, throughout the postseason. The Amazins’ held the Cubs to a combined .169 batting average in the NLCS and the Dodgers to just .227 in the divisional series. Now they have to get past Kansas City — the other best team in baseball — to clinch their first title in three decades.
— Cut4 (@Cut4) October 27, 2015
That task seems easy for a team that cruised through the Postseason. However, for the first time this October, the Mets pitching staff will face a team that can actually hit them, and hit them hard.
Throughout the Postseason, the Mets have thrown 520 fastballs, 423 of them at 95 mph or better. Twenty-four of those turned into hits throughout the National League postseason, in National League ballparks. In their nine combined postseason games, Mets’ starters have induced more swings and misses (140) than balls in play (136).
“No, I wouldn’t call that fun. I’d call that miserable,” said Royals’ Jonny Gomes, who spent a majority of the season with Atlanta and has gone against this Mets’ staff before being sent to Kansas City. “But on the flip side, facing our lineup can be miserable, too. So that sums it all up,” via Jayson Stark of ESPN.
As strong as the Mets have been all season, they’re taking on a Royals team that’s in the World Series for the second time in as many years, hell-bent on winning it all.
Kansas City, who host Games 1 and 2 of the Fall Classic, are hitting .300 against flamethrowers tossing 95-plus and have swung and missed less than 15 percent of the time. In short, they see the Mets starters for what they are, hard-throwing pitchers with control, and raise them with solid bats.
“It makes for an interesting dynamic,” Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie said. “For a pitcher who thrives on the strikeout, both emotionally and to get through the inning, if he’s not able to get that strikeout, and he has to grind through and grind through, that can really wear on a pitcher.”
The challenge isn’t just getting around a hitter or two, or a heart of the lineup that can do damage. For the first time this postseason the Mets will be taking on an entire lineup and bench that has the ability to be a legitimate threat.
Although the Mets have simply owned their opponents hitting, the Royals have been the definition of contact hitting. They’ve put 4,683 balls in play, forcing other defenses to work and were the only big league lineup to strike out in less than 16 percent of all of their plate appearances. No one else in the majors struck out less than 18 percent.
So with a series that, on paper, looks to be strength vs. strength, how do the Mets adjust to the Royals, if they adjust at all?
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) October 27, 2015
— Royals (@Royals) October 27, 2015
That will be the thing to look for as Matt Harvey takes the mound for the Mets in Game 1 in Kansas City ( 8 p.m. ET, FOX). While his fastball is one of the best in baseball, along with those of the rest of the Mets’ starters, Harvey and company will have to rely on off-speed pitching to hope to get the Royals off-balance.
“Obviously, the last four starters that we’ve had, I think I’m kind of topping out at the least number right now,” Harvey said of his No. 1 pitch his four-seam fastball. “So for me behind Noah, who is throwing 150 million mph and Jake, who throws it up in the high 90s, I’ve been happy with pitching at 94, 95 and really mixing in a lot of different pitches.”
There will continue to be no limit for Harvey on the mound, however given the fact that manager Terry Collins could send Harvey out to the mound three times in the Series if it goes all seven games – he’s scheduled to start Game 5 in Flushing and should be ready to come out of the bullpen in the decisive Game 7.
“We realize that he’s going to come back in four days and have to pitch again,” Collins explained to Dan Martin of the New York Post. “So we’re aware of that, too. But he won’t throw 150 [pitches], if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Harvey’s tossed 97 pitches in each of his two postseason outings, going just five innings against the Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLDS but was more economical in his 7 2/3 innings against the Cubs – both outings resulting in wins.
“For me, the Cubs outing definitely made me think a lot and really know that I can be successful at 94, 95 [mph] and really just work on hitting spots and mixing my pitches in,” Harvey added.
Harvey’s curveball handcuffed opposing hitters to just .191 at the plate this season and his slider held them to just .176. Mets’ starters, overall, have thrown off-speed stuff nearly 40 percent of the postseason, up from 36 percent throughout the regular season. Against a fastball-dominant team in Los Angeles, the Mets threw 47 percent off-speed while utilizing more of their fastballs against a Cubs team that struggled against high-speed stuff.
Game 1 of the 2015 World Series between the Mets and the Royals has all of the qualities to make for a classic – great pitching vs. great hitting, two teams that haven’t won a title in three decades, a team of aces against a team that beats aces.
There’s seven games to decide which will conquer. The first to four will prove their point.
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