World Series Game 3 preview: Can Mets avoid 3–0 hole vs. Royals?
The World Series resumes at Citi Field on Friday night, with the Royals looking to bury the Mets in a 3–0 hole and New York hoping to make like its last championship team in 1986 and erase its current 2–0 deficit. As you most likely know, the only major league team ever to come back from a 3–0 deficit in a best-of-seven series was the 2004 Red Sox, but one out of every five teams to fall behind 2–0 in the World Series has come back to win the Series, including the 1986 Mets and '85 Royals.
• The Royals’ unfamiliarity with the Mets’ young starting pitchers hasn’t been a significant hindrance to Kansas City’s offense. Rather, the Royals appear to be making quick in-game adjustments such that allow them to do damage against those young starters the third time through the order. In each of the first two games in Kansas City, the Royals staged a comeback when the lineup turned over for a third time, scoring two runs to tie Game 1 in the sixth inning and four runs to take the lead in the fifth inning of Game 2. Given that and the fact that opposing batters have hit .286/.324/.528 when facing Syndergaard for the third time in a game (including his two postseason starts), Mets manager Terry Collins may need to have a quick hook for his starter when the Royals get a third look at the righty.
• Unfamiliarity will be a factor for both teams in this game. The only Royal to have come to the plate against the rookie Syndergaard before tonight is Game 2 starter Johnny Cueto. However, the only Met to have faced Ventura is Yoenis Cespedes, who is 1-for-7 with an infield single against the Kansas City sophomore.
• The 23-year-old Syndergaard and 24-year-old Ventura are two of the hardest throwers in baseball: According to FanGraphs, they ranked second and fourth, respectively, in average fastball velocity among pitchers with 100 or more innings thrown in the major leagues this season. Per Brooks Baseball, which adjusts radar gun readings to correct for guns that run hot or cold, Syndergaard’s average four-seamer this October has been 98 mph, with a top speed of 101. Ventura, meanwhile, sits at 97 and can also hit triple-digits on occasion.
• Despite their eye-popping velocity, both pitchers have excellent secondary pitches. Ventura misses more bats with his nasty upper-80s curveball than with his heater and throws that curve roughly 30% of the time. Syndergaard has a low-80s curve and upper-80s changeup which he uses in equal measure, both of which miss more bats than his fastball.
• Missing the Royals' bats is something Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom struggled to do in the first two games of this series, which is particularly notable given how often those two pitchers do that. Harvey averaged 12 swings-and-misses per start during the regular season but got just eight in Game 1; deGrom averaged 14 swings-and-misses per start during the regular season but got just three in Game 2. Syndergaard, meanwhile, averaged 13 swings-and-misses per start during the regular season and has a whopping 41 swings-and-misses (and 20 strikeouts) in his 13 innings of work thus far this postseason. It will be interesting to see if he has any more success in getting Royals to swing and miss than his rotation-mates did.
• One key difference between the two starting pitchers could be fatigue. Syndergaard has already thrown 59 2/3 more innings than his career high from last year. Ventura, however, threw 208 1/3 innings in 2014 between the regular and postseasons but, due to a mid-season injury, has thrown just 181 this season.
• One thing working in Syndergaard’s favor is that he has been more effective at home than on the road this season, posting a 2.46 ERA at Citi Field compared to a 4.23 ERA away from Queens. Among the contributing factors: Syndergaard’s ability to limit his walks and his opponents’ extra-base hits at home. Including the postseason, Syndergaard has issued just 10 unintentional walks in 13 home starts this season.
• Ventura hasn’t turned in a quality start this season, but since his rain-shortened outing in Game 1 of the Division Series, the Royals are 3–0 in his starts. In each, Ventura allowed three or fewer runs in roughly five innings of work. In two of those starts he left with his team trailing, but in all three, the Royals staged late rallies to win. The Mets are already all too familiar with Kansas City’s ability to stage late rallies; they led in the fifth inning of both games in this series, only to lose both.
• The Royals haven’t necessarily been killing the Mets’ pitching in this series: Their team batting line is just .253/.323/.398. New York's offense has been dormant, however, hitting .165/.230/.203 with just four runs scored through the first 23 innings of this Series. However much of that you may want to credit to Cueto pitching up to his abilities in Game 2, the Mets need to snap out of their offensive funk tonight or risk getting swept on their own turf. Unfortunately for New York, the team hit better on the road (.730 OPS) than at home (.693) during the regular season.
• If the Mets' offense in the first two games looked more like the pre-trade-deadline edition that ranked last in the majors in run scoring, that’s no coincidence. The team’s leading hitters to this point in the Series have been Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda, all of whom were regular parts of the lineup all season. Meanwhile, the hitters who helped boost New York’s run scoring after the deadline—Cespedes, rookie Michael Conforto, Travis d'Arnaud and David Wright—are a combined 4-for-35 (.114) without a walk or an extra-base hit in the first two games.