Royals, Mets open new season with World Series rematch
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The two teams and their respective starting pitchers that wrapped up last season will usher in the new one when the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets meet Sunday night at Kauffman Stadium.
The only difference will be the location.
Oh, and the stakes.
There is no championship on the line, as there was in Game 5 of the World Series last fall at Citi Field. Rather the season opener for both teams, shifted to prime-time to accommodate an ESPN audience, will serve as the curtain-raiser on the Royals' defense of their first title since 1985.
It's the first opening day rematch of a World Series in major league history.
''It's impossible to simulate World Series atmospheres,'' Mets third baseman David Wright said, ''but with them getting their rings and raising the banner and things like that, I think it would give a little bit of motivation. But I also think they deserved it. They outplayed us during the World Series, no question.''
The Royals return most of the same team that not only won last year's Fall Classic but reached Game 7 against the San Francisco Giants the previous year. If not for the virtuoso effort of Madison Bumgarner, the AL Central champions could be trying for a three-peat.
Of course, winning another can't happen without first getting to the playoffs.
Royals manager Ned Yost was part of 12 division champions with Bobby Cox in Atlanta, yet the Braves only managed to win one World Series. That shows just how difficult the journey is to October.
''It's extremely difficult to maintain that, and just to get there,'' Yost said. ''Our focus in spring training was getting off to a good start, and at the end of the year, having an opportunity to fight our way back. Because it is, it's a fight. Everyone starts the year with those aspirations and dreams of making it to a World Series, but it's very difficult to do.''
The Mets no doubt have similar aspirations.
When they send Matt Harvey to the mound against the Royals' Edinson Volquez on Sunday night, they will do so still searching for their first title since 1986. They also lost to the Yankees in the 2000 Series.
''It will be a good test for us, especially on the road,'' Wright said, ''and provide a little motivation when we see those winners' rings that they're getting.''
The ring ceremony is actually scheduled for Game 2 on Tuesday. All the Mets will have to bear with on Sunday night is watching the Royals raise their second championship banner.
''A lot of guys here were not in the World Series. At some point, you turn the page and get ready for 2016, and for us that was this spring,'' Wright said. ''It stinks to fall a little bit short, but it was a heck of a run. We just can't keep talking about last year.''
Both teams are predicting an emotional two-game set, given the way things transpired the last time they met on the field. There were intentional pitches inside, threats of retaliation and plenty of heated moments in the pressure-cooker that comes with the World Series.
Some have even suggested that tension may still linger five months later.
''I'm really looking forward to it. I think all the guys are looking forward to it,'' said the Mets' Noah Syndergaard, whose inside pitch to Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar was the flashpoint of Game 3.
''It's going to be an extremely high-energy game,'' Syndergaard said. ''As soon as we get to Kansas City, it's pedal-to-the-metal from there. It should be a fun time and we're all looking forward to it.''