New York Dreams: Do the Mets Need a Miracle?

As the World Series shifts to New York after the Royals took both games at home to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the 2015 World Series, the mood in the Mets clubhouse is much different than it was just a week ago. After a Game 2 effort that included but 2 weak hits whose combined speed wouldn’t warrant a speeding ticket, they now know just why the Royals dealt 3 left handed pitching prospects to the Reds for Johnny Cueto and what makes him so dominant. Cueto’s complete game, 2 hit effort featured just 4 strikeouts and 3 walks on 122 pitches; only 70 of which were strikes.

 

What do these numbers mean? They mean that Cueto was excellent, but not his normal dominant self. In fact, he was in some trouble in the middle sections of the game, in which he allowed his lone run of the evening on a cue-shot single by Lucas Duda in the top of the 4th that scored Daniel Murphy. This was immediately followed by 1-2-3 innings in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, showing the mindset Cueto locked himself into while feeding off of the raucous 41,000+ fans in attendance. After asking manager Ned Yost for permission to pitch the final inning, Cueto became the first Dominican born pitcher to toss a complete game in the World Series, and the first player in general to accomplish the feat with 2 or less runs allowed since Greg Maddux in 1995. When you find your name mentioned alongside that of Maddux, you know you’re in some historic company.

 

When the series returns to Citi Field, the Mets must do one thing better and one thing only: HIT THE BALL. The pitching will be back to its normal, dominant self, with Noah Syndergaard toeing the rubber (and we all know what he usually does), but offense must be of paramount importance. After an 11 hit performance in Game 1, the Mets’ bats went quiet. With Yordano Ventura throwing for the opposition, the Mets hitters have to find a way to make Ventura throw extra pitches by employing the Royals strategy for Game 2; fouling off pitches as a strategy. They fouled off 24 of Jacob deGrom’s 95 pitches, forcing him to exit early. The backside of the Royals bullpen is their obvious strength, so Terry Collins’ club has to try and attack Ventura and get to the bullpen as early as possible in Game 3.

 

Battle Royal-e: Wild Game 1 Goes to KC

Talk about a game with a little bit of everything! If you wanted game 1 to be emotional, weird, tight, dramatic, and REALLY, REALLY long, then that’s exactly what you got last night! By the time the game ended at 1:20 AM Eastern Time, I had to jog my memory to remember that Alcides Escobar led off the Royals half of the first inning with an inside the park home run. The 14-inning affair was the longest Game 1 in World Series history, and the longest World Series game since Geoff Blum’s pinch-hit blast gave the White Sox a win over the Astros in 2005.

So by this time you’ve probably heard all the crazy stories of last night’s adventure. How FOX Sports lost power on their broadcast and had to use the video feed from MLB Network. How Jeurys Familia finally blew a save, giving up an Alex Gordon home run in the bottom of the 9th to force extra innings. How Edinson Volquez pitched 6 solid innings, only to depart the game and be told of his father’s death. This game was certainly not lacking for things to talk about. But, for as great a game as it was, we cannot dwell on it, because in just a few hours, Game 2 from Kansas City will be underway.

For the Royals, it’s business as usual. Their dominant bullpen can be used again tonight, practically without limitations, although it is safe to assume Chris Young will be unavailable. The other good news for the KC pitching staff is that Johnny Cueto gets the ball tonight, meaning that the Royals can again count on 6 (and most likely 7) innings at least before manager Ned Yost calls on the bullpen. From an offensive standpoint, once again, we saw last night that the Royals can get contributions from anywhere in the lineup, getting home runs from their leadoff batter and also their #8 hitter.

On the other hand, it is a different outlook for the Mets. Yes, they still have the superior starting pitching, but that can only get you so far. For New York, its still imperative that they get to the Kansas City bullpen with a lead, because they only scored 1 run in 7 innings off Royals relievers. They got good signs offensively from Murphy who had another two hits, David Wright had a pair of hits, and Lucas Duda continues to put good swings on the ball. They’ll face a crafty pitcher in Cueto tonight, and they have to believe that Jacob deGrom can match Cueto pitch for pitch..

Game One of the World Series is one that we should rightfully remember and talk about it for years to come, but for now, it is time to put it out of mind. There is still baseball to be played, and the Mets would obviously love to return to Citi Field with the series tied 1-1 instead of facing a 2-0 deficit. Yes, Familia blew the save last night. But the Mets still played well, and they should still have confidence that they can compete and win in the World Series. Confidence abounds in the Royals clubhouse, as once again , they showed they can come back when the chips are down.

6 hours to baseball? Bring it on, because this game will be worth the wait!

Alcides Escobar comes home with the winning run in the 14th inning SOURCE: USA Today Sports

 

 

Royals Return: This Time, It’s Personal

 

After a 2014 season that ended in a heart breaking 3-2 loss in Game 7 to the perennial front runner San Fransisco Giants, the Royals knew they would have an opportunity to return to baseball’s highest stage in 2015. The only major losses to free agency in the ensuing offseason were pitcher James Shields, who declined a qualifying offer from the AL Champs to sign with San Diego (the Royals received a compensation pick for this), DH Billy Butler, who was drafted by KC with their 1st pick in the 2004 Draft and signed a tender with the Athletics, and Nori Aoki, who jumped ship for a chance at a repeat with the Giants.

The core of the lineup remained the same entering the 2015 campaign, with Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Salvador Perez all coming off of the best seasons of their careers in the previous year. Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar were secondary producers for the club, but all contributed solid numbers throughout the season and in Gordon’s pace, a Gold Glove winning defensive effort.

The notable offseason acquisitions for the reigning AL Champions included designated hitter Kendrys Morales, OF Alex Rios, starting pitcher Edinson Volqez, and reliever Kris Medlen. Morales turned out a spectacular 2015 campaign, drubbing a .290 batting average and leading the squad with 106 RBI AND 22 HR. His 58 walks and 103 strikeouts were both second behind Eric Hosmer in both categories. Volquez also turned out to be a productive pickup, tying Yordano Ventura for the team lead in wins with 13 while leading all Royals pitchers with 33 games started, 200.1 IP, and finished one strikeout behind the flame throwing Ventura for the team lead in K with 155. Rios and Medlen both suffered through injuries, but were productive in their limited time in the regular season and both made the postseason roster.

2015 was a dominant season for a KC squad which won their division by 12 games over the Twins. The Royals has a winning record against every American League Team except the Yankees (2-4), Houston (2-4), Toronto (3-4), and the Rangers (3-4); all playoff teams.

The postseason kicked off with a challenge right away: a 3-2, hard fought series victory over the new kids on the block, the Astros. After a furious comeback to win Game 4 with 5 runs in the 8th inning and 2 more for insurance in the 9th to with the game 9-6, the momentum had all but swung in the Royals favor.

A matchup with another offensive firepower awaited KC in the Championship Series in the form of the volatile Toronto Blue Jays. The series featured every range of emotion from anger when both teams had multiple incidents that cause the benches to clear, a rarity in the playoffs to despair for the losing team, which happened to be Toronto after 6 games.

This 2015 Kansas City Royals team is one that is marked by its chemistry, with the entire productive core returning from their 2014 World Series adventure, and consistently getting better as the years progress. After winning only 75 games in 2013 and 86 last year, this year’s 95 wins are the most for the club since a 97 win season in 1980, ironically losing in the World Series to the Phillies that year in 6 games.

Ned Yost and his team have many questions to answer in their second trip to the World Series in as many years. Is this the year they lift the Commissioner’s Trophy after being so close? Will they be able to defeat the Mets and their dominant pitching? Who will step up and produce in clutch situations? These will all be answered in two weeks time, and the Royals hope they can go golfing this summer with heavy hands, weighed down by championship rings.

Up and Down the Lineup, Royals Pummel Jays

Written by Kendrick Fruits

If there was ANY doubt whatsoever that the Royals may be in trouble after surrendering 11 runs to Toronto on Monday night, it was eliminated very quickly tonight. Specifically, it was eliminated in the top of the 1st inning today as the Royals coasted to an easy 14-2 won over the Blue Jays in Toronto. The Royals chased Toronto starter R.A. Dickey from the game in just the second inning, and after Liam Hendriks provided some stability, the Royals proceeded to batter the pitching of LaTroy Hawkins, Mark Lowe, and Ryan Tepera. Its difficult to pick a hitting star for the Royals, because they had contributions from so many players. Ben Zobrist was 2-5 with a 2 run homer. Alex Rios homered in the 7th. Alcides Escobar drove in 4, and Lorenzo Cain plated 3. In fact, third baseman Mike Moustakas was the only Royal who failed to register a hit, but he still drove in a run. All told, Kansas City outhit Toronto 15-7 and this game was never in doubt.

 

KANSAS CITY NOTES:

Team Effort. As previously mentioned, the Royals picked up contributions up and down the lineup, including 5 players recording multiple hits, 4 players scoring multiple runs, and 3 players driving in multiple runners. Their offensive prowess today was so evident that even Paulo Orlando, who entered the game as a pinch runner in the 7th, collected 2 hits in 2 trips to the plate.

Young effective, but short stay. Royals starter Chris Young did a good job keeping the Jays hitters off balance, surrendering a pair of runs in 4.2 innings, throwing only 78 pitches. The Royals proceeded to use Luke Hochevar before turning the ball over to the dominant back end of the bullpen (Madsen, Herrera, and Morales). Young did his job, and gave the Royals a huge boost by practically lulling the Toronto hitters to sleep, before the Royals ‘pen turned up the heat.

 

TORONTO NOTES:

Disappointing day for Dickey. The former NL Cy Young winner and owner of 11 victories this year hardly looked like an ace pitcher today. The Royals had 3 runs across before Dickey even recorded a single out in the first inning, and he ended up allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 4 hits and 2 walks. The other run was scored on a passed ball. The play was reviewed but the call was confirmed.

Bullpen woes continue. Going into the 2015 season, many teams talked about building up their bullpen to match up with the Royals come postseason time. It seems safe to say that the Blue Jays simply cannot match up with them. If Toronto is going to win another game in this series, you can bet they will have to score early, and have their starter go deep into the game because the Royals are simply feasting on the arms that come out of the Toronto ‘pen to the tune of 13 runs in 2 days.

Bats go back to sleep. A night after erupting for 11 runs, the Blue Jays manage only 2, on a Donaldson double and Bautista single in the 3rd inning. Toronto batters struck out 8 times today and the KC relievers all needed a very minimal amount of pitches thrown to get through the back half of the game. In fact, Franklin Morales’ 9th inning was the only inning in which a Royals reliever needed 15 pitches to get through. Toronto is going to have to be more selective at the plate tomorrow.

 

WHAT’S NEXT:

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 21st

ALCS GAME 5. Royals lead series 3 games to 1.

PROBABLE STARTERS: KC- Edinson Volquez (13-9, 3.55)    TOR- Marco Estrada (13-8, 3.13)

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Both teams used their bullpens heavily today, and it will be interesting to see who will be available for tomorrow’s game. The Royals should be a little more concerned in that aspect (albeit only slightly) because in Game 1, Volquez looked like he was on the ropes through 2 innings, but ended up throwing a solid 6. Obviously the bullpen concerns for Toronto make it paramount that Estrada goes 6 at the very least, although we could see the struggling David Price come in to relieve if manager John Gibbons deems it necessary.

 

MY PICK: Momentum is real, and the proof of its existence lies in a great bullpen and an offense that feels like they can score at will any moment they choose. Tonight the Royals showed they can produce up and down the lineup, which should certainly be a cause of concern for Toronto. The Royals win tomorrow, and advance to their second straight World Series.

Jays Soar, Win ALCS Game 3

written by Kendrick Fruits

There’s just something strange about baseball in Canada this year.

The Toronto Blue Jays saw a 7-run lead evaporate in the 9th inning, but still held on to defeat the Kansas City Royals 11-8 in Game 3 of the ALCS. The Blue Jays win cuts the Royals advantage in the series to 2 games to 1. The Blue Jays offense scored three runs in the second inning, and then added 6 in a monstrous third inning. Troy Tulowitzki homered, and later in the frame, Josh Donaldson went deep to give the Jays a 9-2 lead (and knocking Johnny Cueto out of the game in the process). After a mini-rally by the Royals, Ryan Goins homered to put the Jays in double digits. Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman pitched into the 7th frame, but was hit hard, allowing 11 hits on the evening. Once Stroman left the game, things got hairy. In the 9th inning, Liam Hendriks lasted only 1/3 of an inning, giving up 3 hits. With one run already across, the Jays wasted no time bringing in Roberto Osuna, who was promptly greeted by a towering blast by Royals DH Kendrys Morales. Osuna then got Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez to end the wild and strange game.

 

TORONTO NOTES:

That’s more like it. That is the Toronto offense we saw the last half of the year. That is the explosive Toronto offense, capable of erupting at any moment. And boy, did they do so tonight! It seemed only a matter of time until they broke out of their “slump”, having looked overmatched by Royals’ starters Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura in Games 1 and 2. The linescore shows the Blue Jays were actually outhit by Kansas City 15 to 11, but the difference was that Toronto was able to string their hits together to produce some big innings. Troy Tulowitzki seemed to finally be breaking out of his slump, until a strikeout late in the game led to his ejection.

Marcus Stroman pitched into the 7th inning, allowing 11 hits, but did a really nice job limiting the damage and spreading out the hits. It was clear early on that Stroman did not have his best stuff, and relied heavily on his changeup to keep Royals hitters off balance.

Concerns in the pen? Toronto has a young bullpen (excluding the ageless LaTroy Hawkins), and that bullpen has been an area of concern this year, and tonight’s game proved that those concerns are validated. The Royals nearly mounted a comeback in the 9th inning, and we have repeatedly seen the Jays ‘pen look shaky throughout the postseason. Therefore, it seems paramount that Toronto starters go deep into their games.

 

KANSAS CITY NOTES:

The hole was just too deep. KC starter Johnny Cueto failed to record a single out in the 3rd inning while surrendering 8 runs. The Royals offense scratched and clawed, and (thanks to Kendrys Morales) mashed their way back into this game, but couldn’t overcome the deficit Cueto put them in. Cueto continuously missed his locations, both in and out of the strike zone, walking 4 and giving up 6 hits. It was a far cry from his masterful performance in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Astros. If Cueto gets another chance to pitch this postseason, he will certainly need to bring his ace stuff to the hill. Anything less than that may not be enough against this Toronto lineup.

Medlen saves the day. With Cueto’s early departure, the Royals faced the unfavorable proposition of wearing out their bullpen. Enter Kris Medlen. Medlen threw 5 innings of 2-run ball, stabilizing the mess left by Cueto, and giving manager Ned Yost a chance to rest the top-notch bullpen and save them for a more high-leverage game.

A Royal Rally. As the Kansas City Royals have shown throughout this 2015 postseason, you can never ever count them out of a game. With their backs against the wall in Houston, the Royals continuously rallied late to win. In Game 2 of the ALCS, they could do nothing with David Price for 6 innings before erupting for 5 runs in the 7th inning. Again tonight, they almost pulled off a miraculous comeback. Yes, they lost the game, but for a team down 9-2 and 11-4 at points in the game, to almost come from behind and win after doing it so many times when it mattered most, the Royals were able to salvage some confidence in their offense’s ability to produce in the clutch.

 

WHAT’S NEXT: 

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20th

ALCS GAME 4 @Toronto. 4 PM on FOX Sports 1. (Royals lead series 2-1)

PROBABLE PITCHERS: KC- Chris Young ( 11-6, 3.06)     TOR- R.A. Dickey (11-11, 3.91)

What to Watch For: With two soft-tossers on the mound, it will be a battle of which offense can be the most patient, which is a battle that favors the Royals. Dickey has had an up and down year, but looked good in his last outing vs. Texas. With the Blue Jays seeing power pitching throughout the playoffs, it isn’t unthinkable that they may struggle tomorrow against Chris Young.

MY PICK: It’s tough to pick against a momentum-dependant team that just lit up the scoreboard to the tune of 11 runs, but I’m gonna do it anyways. ROYALS win, and take a 3-1 series lead.

 

NLCS GAME 3 @Chicago. 8PM on TBS. (Mets lead series 2-0).

PROBABLE PITCHERS: NYM- Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.54)    CHC- Kyle Hendricks (8-7, 3.95)

What to Watch For: Can the Cubs solve the masterful Mets pitching? The Cubbies have lots of young power hitters who thrive in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, but with the way the Mets have been pitching, it doesn’t matter where you play, you won’t be scoring much off of them. deGrom struggled a little with command in his last game and got his pitch count way too high, way too early, so watch for him to rebound and try to keep the ball in the yard.

MY PICK: I see no reason why I shouldn’t pick the Mets. Dominant pitching from everyone on the staff and clutch hitting up and down the lineup is a winning combination. Mets take a 3-0 series lead tomorrow night.