The Kansas City Royals left the crib up 2-0 and headed back to New York to capture the World Series title that slipped away from them last season. Mets fans didn’t have much reason for optimism other than hoping historical lightning strikes twice and their listless team can pull off a remarkable comeback like that crazy-talented, pesky, cocky and resilient, renegade clan did back in ‘86. Game 2 was a pivotal game and the Mets looked largely disinterested, losing 7-1.
I think I even saw MLB commissioner Rob Manfred shining the World Series trophy and telling security to just leave it at Citi Field because KC looks like it is intent on sweeping the Mets. (Manfred was at a press conference at Citi Field before the game, presenting the Roberto Clemente Award, which goes to the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship and community involvement, to Pittsburgh’s Black Knight, Andrew McCutchen)
KC popped off the series by breaking through what had been two impenetrable walls in Dark Knight Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, leaving the biggest game of the year to rookie Noah Syndergaard, a flame-throwing, long blonde hair-rocking rookie to pitch the game of his life in the most pressure-filled moment of his young career.
If the Mets had lost Game 3, which they won 9-3, it was unlikely that they would have made it out of Citi Field with any more games left to play in 2015.
It would probably have been the last time we saw the Mets MVP Yoenis Cespedes swing a bat in a Mets uniform. Playoff hero Daniel Murphy too. And what about David Wright? The aging slugger is breaking down, he’s only played over 150 games once in the past five seasons.
He’s been present in the physical this playoffs, but his impact -- as a captain, franchise player and elder statesman of the Mets -- had been minimal until Saturday night’s first-ever playoff game at Citi Field.
The young boy who grew up in Shea Stadium, flashing leather at third base and blasting his bat work with the lethal force of an AK-47 blitz, was now quite the man and the lone player still present from that devastating 2006 loss to St. Louis in the National League Championship Series.
With the eminent departures coming, this is probably going to be the last chance for Wright to play on a team capable of winning a World Championship. He’s waited 12 years to be in this position and the baseball gods have blessed him with enough physical health to contribute to the Mets’ run at immortality.
As I’ve previously mentioned, in Game 4 of the 1986 World Series -- in which the Mets rebounded from a similar 2-0 deficit to win it all -- after scoring just four runs in the first two games, the Mets bats exploded, hitting three homers (Two by catcher Gary “Kid” Carter and one by Lenny “Nails” Dykstra) to win 6-2. In the previous Game 3, Bobby Ojeda wasn’t dominating but he was emphatic and did just enough to secure a 7-1 victory that helped shift the momentum of the series. Darling rebounded from a Game 1 loss to secure Game 4.
Syndergaard gave up some runs early, but the 23-year-old regrouped with the poise of a 33-year old veteran. He knew that if he faltered and lost the game, the Mets season would be all but over. Shorty kept dishing near triple-digit peas and went six innings and struck out six while allowing only three runs.
David Wright of 2015 had his Gary Carter-of-1986 moment. They relate as veterans in the twilight of long, successful careers, delivering with the stick and earning those phat checks at a moment when nothing they’ve ever done on a baseball field matters as much.
It’s clear now that Wright was saving his best for the home crowd, setting the tone and giving Syndergaard an early lead with a two-run homer in his first World Series at-bat that made Citi Field erupt.
Then Curtis Granderson who has been a godsend for the Mets franchise and has balled out in these playoffs, added a two-run shot of his own as the Mets fell behind twice in the early innings but showed the fight that they lacked in Game 2 and eventually sent Yordano Ventura to the showers after 3.1 innings and five runs of damage.
Now, down just 2-1, and owning the homefield momentum, the Mets will take the field tonight and hand the ball to another baby hurler. Twenty-four-year old Steven Matz from L.I. is a year older than Syndergaard but greener on the experience tip. However, Matz has never lost in his young MLB career. He was 4-0 as a late regular season call up and is 1-0 in these playoffs with an opportunity to become a permanent fixture in the annals of NY Mets World Series heroes.
The Mets 2009 second-round draft pick will battle 36-year-old veteran journeyman Chris Young. Young has played for five teams, including two seasons with the Mets (2011-12) and when he’s pitched in the playoffs, he’s been very effective. In four career postseason appearances (two starts), Young has 24 Ks in 18.1 innings and a 1.47 ERA.
Kansas City is going to come out ready to win Game 4 and then eventually wrap it up at home. They don’t want the emotional roller coaster of last year’s seven-game series against the San Francisco Giants. If they let the Mets take the first two at home, then Sunday’s game at Citi Field becomes a must-win situation for both squads as the series finishes up in KC.
Mets relief pitcher Tug McGraw said it in 1973, “Ya gotta believe.” His inspirational words became the motto and exhortation, that helped propel the Mets from sixth place in the NL East standings in July, to the NL Pennant. The Mets have to defend homefield. A win tonight and it’s 0-0 again. A best-of-three series.
The sting of the first two Met losses become badges of courage and the beginning of an incredible story of an underdog Mets team capturing all of the winning elements of baseball in perfect harmony. Kansas City is hoping Game 3 was just a bump along the road to the inevitable slaughter of an outmatched Mets team. On Saturday morning, most of the baseball world believed that to be true. By Sunday morning the return of Mr. Wright and a chance to tie it up tonight has most of Baseball Nation singing a new tune.