Down two games to none, the Mets were essentially faced with a must-win situation in Game 3 of the World Series. Though they quickly found themselves trailing, they held their own in a see-saw battle before pulling away with seven unanswered runs from the third through sixth innings en route to a 9–3 win, thereby ensuring that this series will go at least five games.
Here are three quick thoughts on the game:
Things heated up quickly
Noah Syndergaard came out firing, backing up Thursday’s statement regarding Alcides Escobar’s first-pitch swing tendencies ("I have a few tricks up my sleeve I’ll be able to break out tomorrow night," he had promised) with a game-opening 99-mph heater that sailed over Escobar’s head and all the way to the backstop.
The Royals were none too amused to say the least, but they got a measure of revenge after Syndergaard struck out Escobar on a 100-mph fastball. Ben Zobrist doubled to deep centerfield, then took third on a Lorenzo Cain infield single that squibbed into no-man’s land between Syndergaard and third baseman David Wright. Eric Hosmer’s grounder to Lucas Duda looked as though it might produce an inning-ending double play, but the return from shortstop Wilmer Flores inexplicably went to Syndergaard, who was a few feet short of first base, instead of, you know, the first baseman as the two collided. Zobrist scored.
Syndergaard wound up throwing 20 pitches in the inning, though he did get as many swings and misses (three) as Jacob deGrom did in his 94-pitch start in Game 2. His teammates gave him a lead by virtue of Wright’s homer off Yordano Ventura in the bottom of the first, but once Syndergaard got back on the mound, the Royals got the conga line going.
Singles by Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon and Alex Rios tied the score at 2–2, though Gordon was called out at third base upon review. Ventura sacrificed Rios to third, and Rios came home one pitch later, when a Syndergaard curve to Escobar slipped through the wickets of Travis d’Arnaud. Escobar singled and stole second as Jon Niese began warming up in the bullpen, but Syndergaard escaped via a Zobrist flyout. It was another messy, high-pitch-count inning (19 this time) for the 23-year-old fireballer.
He soon found his groove. The Zobrist flyout began a string of 12 straight batters retired for Syndergaard, five of them by strikeouts, though that meant he needed 53 pitches to get through that stretch. The streak finally ended with two outs in the sixth inning when Daniel Murphy dove to keep a ground ball from Moustakas from reaching the outfield, but couldn’t make a play on it. The Royals put Syndergaard on the ropes when Perez and Gordon drew walks as he passed the 100-pitch mark, but he retired Rios on an easy ground ball to escape the jam. His final line—six innings, seven hits, three runs, two walks and six strikeouts—was nothing to write home about, but he kept his head amid the early craziness and gave his team a quality start. He did generate 16 swings and misses from among his 104 pitches, six via a heater that, according to Brooks Baseball, averaged 98.6 mph and maxed out at 101.6, five via his curve, three from his slider and two from his sinker.
Ventura’s gopher problem
During the regular season, Ventura generated a 52% ground-ball rate (second on the staff behind Ryan Madson’s 55%) and allowed only 14 home runs, a rate of 0.77 per nine. He’s had a much harder time keeping the ball in the park in the postseason, allowing five in 21 innings, a rate of 2.1 per nine. Though he didn't yield any his two-inning start in Game 1 of the division series against the Astros, he served up two in Game 4, one to the Blue Jays in ALCS Game 6 and two on Friday night.
The first one by Wright in the first inning, and the second one, a line drive down the rightfield line by Granderson in the third inning, came on fastballs that Ventura left in the center of the plate while the 24-year-old righty was pitching out of the stretch. The Wright one followed Granderson’s leadoff single, came off a 96-mph fastball and was estimated at 385 feet by Statcast. The Granderson one followed a single by Syndergaard, came on a 94-mph fastball and was estimated at 346 feet.
It simply wasn’t Ventura’s night. After he allowed three straight singles to start the bottom of the fourth, with Michael Conforto driving in Duda to run the score to 5–3, he stuck around for just one more out before being pulled in favor of Danny Duffy. For the night, he threw just 53 pitches, generated three swings and misses and struck out one while yielding seven hits and five runs over his 3 1/3 innings. Via Brooks Baseball, his four-seam fastball averaged just 94.8 mph, 2–3 mph below his previous postseason turns.
It was yet another reminder of the Kansas City rotation’s scuffles thus far this postseason. The starters have collectively been cuffed for a 5.27 ERA with just four quality starts out of 14, two apiece by Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez.
Breaking out, breaking down and breaking it open
Wright came in batting just .171/.320/.220 in 50 plate appearances this postseason, but he went 2 for 5 with not only the home run but a two-run single off Franklin Morales that helped break open the game in the Mets’ four-run sixth inning. His four RBIs were the most by a Met in a World Series game since Rusty Staub in Game 4 in 1973.
Granderson had a big night as well, going 2 for 5 with a homer and three runs scored, not to mention a great catch in centerfield off the bat of Zobrist to end the fifth inning. He’s batting .283/.382/.457 for the postseason.
Those four sixth-inning runs were all scored at the expense of Morales, who allowed two hits, hit a batter and went into total vapor lock on a comebacker by Granderson. The 29-year-old lefty looked like a dog who couldn’t decide whether to chase his own tail by going clockwise or counterclockwise:
Morales’s indecision broke the game open, as the Mets expanded their lead from 6–3 to 9–3. The lefty wound up retiring just one of the five batters he faced, leaving him with a 108.00 ERA for this World Series. Including his seven runs allowed in three innings for the Rockies in the 2007 World Series, he owns a 29.70 ERA in his World Series career, the highest for any pitcher with at least three innings thrown. With his ERA climbing from his previous mark of 21.00, he overtook Harry Gumbert, who allowed 12 runs in four innings over three World Series for the Giants (1936 and 1937) and Cardinals (1942), producing a 27.00 ERA, and Fred Green, who allowed 10 runs in four innings for the Pirates in 1960 en route to a 22.50 ERA.