Baseball Returns With a Three-Game Slate

It’s been a little over five months since the last non-exhibition Major League Baseball game was played, but meaningful baseball is finally taking place again today (Opening Day, part one). After a month of Spring Training games, six of baseball’s thirty teams are scheduled to dual it out over the course of this afternoon and evening, with the remaining twenty-four squads playing their opening games on Monday.Opening Day

Game one of the regular season is set to kick off at 1:05, and sees the Cardinals taking on the Pirates in a National League Central battle. Francisco Liriano and Adam Wainwright are the scheduled starters for the contest, leaving little to doubt that it will be a great game. With the NL Central likely to be a very close race throughout the coming 162 games, it’s never been more important to get off to a good start against a division rival.

The second game on the docket for today is another divisional faceoff, as the Blue Jays are going up against their American League East counterpart Rays. While the Rays aren’t predicted to hold up against Toronto in the long run, anything can happen in the first game of the year. On the mound for Tampa is Chris Archer, with Marcus Stroman toeing the rubber for the Jays. It will likely be a fun one to watch, with this game beginning at 4:05 in the afternoon.

But while the previous two games are sure to be exciting and well worth watching, the one I’m going to be watching the closest and am looking forward to the most is the World Series rematch between the Mets and the Royals at 8:37. Game five of the Fall Classic way back on November 1st saw Matt Harvey starting for the Mets, with Edinson Volquez setting the tone for Kansas City, which just so happens to be the pitching matchup for tonight. For that reason, this should wind up being an unbelievable game.

As we all know, the Royals walked away World Series champions over the Mets in 2015, however, that was last season. It’s a new year, and with it comes new opportunities for each and every team around baseball. The road to the World Series starts with game one, and the first week always promises excitement from teams and individual players around baseball, as they all look to get off to hot starts.

Let the season begin.

Royals Win 2015 World Series in Five

After losing games one and two of the World Series started by Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, respectively, the Mets had reason for concern heading into game three of the World Series on Friday night. But as I stated at the end of my previous post, they had Noah Syndergaard on the mound for the game, and with him having been great all season long, they still had reason to hold out hope of a series comeback. They simply had to score enough runs to beat out the Royals and Yordano Ventura, who was sure to be equally terrific.Syndergaard

But it appeared to be more of the same for the Mets when the game started. An Eric Hosmer RBI-groundout in the very first inning struck a blow to the Mets before they even had a chance to swing the bats. But the Mets wasted no time in answering back. In the bottom half of the same inning, David Wright blasted a two-run homer to give the Mets a 2-1 lead early on, and provided some needed positivity to the club.

However, the Mets didn’t hold the lead for long. In the top of the second, an RBI-single by Alex Rios and a passed ball by Syndergaard with a man on third gave the Royals a one run lead once again. Even so, Syndergaard helped his own cause by getting a leadoff single in the third inning — the youngest pitcher with a World Series hit since Dwight Gooden in 1986 — which he was well rewarded for. The very next batter, Curtis Granderson, hit a line-drive homer that cleared the right field wall by just a few feet, making the score 4-3, Mets.

From the second inning on, Syndergaard lived up to his nickname of “Thor”. He was magnificent, retiring ten straight at one point. The Mets also helped him out, scoring another run in the bottom of the fourth, coming via a Michael Conforto ground ball to first base that lead to confusion between the second baseman, Ben Zobrtist, and Eric Hosmer. MondesiUltimately, Conforto chugged his way safely to first, and the run scored without a play.

A little history was made in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Raul Mondesi Jr. made his major league debut against Syndergaard. Although he struck out, Mondesi became the first player in the entire history of Major League Baseball to make his big league debut during the Fall Classic. That’s certainly impressive.

Also impressive was the Mets’ resurgence of a run-scoring machine. While the Royals didn’t score again after the second, the Mets posted another four runs in the sixth inning, coming from contributions from Juan Uribe, David Wright (who had four RBI’s on the game) and Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets held a 9-3 lead when the inning concluded, and that’s where things would wind up as the final score.

With game four now being a game in which the Mets were simply looking to tie things up and not worrying about being eliminated, you had to figure they could be a bit more relaxed and therefore able to perform much as they did in game three. It was sure to be a fun game.

Steven Matz — the second rookie on the mound for the Mets in back-to-back games — was on the mound in game four, opposed by the Royals’ Chris Young. Matz and Young are two completely different kind of pitchers, so it was fun to watch how each went about trying to get the other team out.Matz

Early on for the Mets’ side of things, it was a rookie show. Steven Matz lead off with a couple of scoreless innings, and Michael Conforto kicked off the third inning with a homer (the youngest players since Miguel Cabrera in 2003 to hit a World Series homer) off of Chris Young, who had been equally good to that point in the game. Wilmer Flores followed up with a fall-in single, and later advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on a terrific sacrifice bunt by Matz. Then, the unbelievable happened.

Curtis Granderson lifted a fly ball into right field which was easily caught by Alex Rios. But Rios forgot how many outs there were, and took a step or two towards the infield before realizing it was only the second out of the inning. Although it was going to be a close play anyhow, it took away any shot at nailing Flores at the plate. That simply can’t happen — not in the World Series. But it did, giving the Mets a 2-0 lead.

The Royals would answer back in the fifth, scoring a single run via an Alex Gordon RBI-single. But despite that run, Matz was still able to pitch well to get out of the inning. His opposer, Chris Young, was removed after the fourth inning, and replaced by Danny Duffy. But Duffy promptly allowed yet another home run to Conforto, who became the only Mets player other than Gary Carter to hit two homers in a Fall Classic game. Things were looking good for the Mets.

Ben Zobrist lead off the sixth inning with his eighth double of the postseason, getting things started against Matz, who many people were shocked was still in the game. As a result, the next batter, Lorenzo Cain, knocked a ball up the Murphymiddle that scored Zobrist and made it a 3-2 game with no outs. Matz was promptly removed, replaced by Jonathan Niese, and the potential further damage was contained.

That is, until the eighth inning, when the Royals took the lead an never looked back. Daniel Murphy committed an untimely error on an Eric Hosmer ground ball, which allowed Ben Zobrist to score. Singles by Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez plated two more and put Kansas City up by two runs, 5-3, which is where the game concluded after a failed attempt at a comeback for the Mets.

This isn’t the way many baseball fans envisioned things going at all. The Royals are a good team, but to win games going up against Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz is absolutely amazing. Sitting one win away from a World Series title, you knew they were sure to be on their game in Sunday’s game five potential elimination game. But going up against Harvey yet again, you had to figure it was going to be a challenge.

While the story of the game on Sunday was predicted to be Matt Harvey either keeping the Mets alive or not, it began with Curtis Granderson. As the first batter of the game, Granderson hit a homer off of Edinson Volquez to give the Mets a 1-0 lead and an extremely early spark.

Harvey struck out the side in the fourth — the second Mets pitcher (Tom Seaver being the other) to strike out the side in order in a World Series game — and was looking completely locked in, and much more like the All-Star version of HarveyHarvey that baseball fans had come to know, going on to strike out eight through the first five. Even so, despite the flaw in the first, Volquez was just as good to lead things off. With both pitchers totally dialed it, you had to figure that this was going to be one of the best games thus far.

The score remained the same through the sixth inning, when Curtis Granderson, David Wright and Daniel Murphy all lead off the inning with a walk, hit and error, respectively. The next batter, Yoenis Cespedes, looked to cash in with the bases loaded and nobody out, but he fouled an 0-1 pitch off of his left kneecap, and appeared to be headed for the clubhouse. But he stayed in the ballgame, only to pop out before limping off the field. Following Cespedes was Lucas Duda, who came through with a sac fly that plated Granderson to increase the lead to 2-0.

That’s where things would stay through the top of the ninth inning, when the Mets were faced with a huge decision: leave Harvey in after 102 pitches, or bring in the closer, Jeurys Familia, who had blown two saves through this point in the World Series, in game one and game four. After all, if Familia had closed out those games, the Mets would have been sitting three outs away from a World Championship. You simply had to leave Harvey in to finish what he started.

And the Mets did just that. After declaring that there was “no way I’m leaving this game” to manager Terry Collins, Harvey took the hill looking to shut things down in the final inning. However, he appeared a bit too amped up to start with, walking the leadoff man, Lorenzo Cain, and overthrowing some of his pitches. Cain proceeded to steal second, and was knocked in by an RBI-double from Eric Hosmer. Harvey was promptly removed, but no matter what, it was the right call under the situation.

HosmerNonetheless, the Royals, who hold the playoff record for six postseason multi-run comebacks, were now just a well placed hit away from tying the game. Familia was brought in to be the potential hero of game five, which would ultimately make up for his previous subpar pitching. But he wouldn’t complete the game. An errant throw by Lucas Duda to home plate after a groundout by Salvador Perez allowed Hosmer to tie the game at 2-2, and made for Familia’s third blown save of the Fall Classic — the most in baseball history.

The score remained tied through the twelfth, when everything completely fell apart for the Mets. What began as a simple RBI-pinch-hit-single from Christian Colon, putting the Royals up a mere run, turned into a blowout. Christian Colon would eventually score, along with three more runs via a Lorenzo Cain double that scored three runs with the bases loaded.

With the Mets down 7-2 heading into the bottom of the twelfth, you had to figure they stood little chance of a comeback, especially facing the hard throwing Wade Davis. Ultimately, Davis would strike out three, putting an exclamation point on the Royals’ season, and making them 2015 World Series Champions.

World Series

My hat certainly goes off to the Royals. I, admittedly, was pulling for the Mets to win, simply because I’m a big Matt Harvey fan and because I wanted to see the season be continued a couple more games out in Kansas City. But you got the feeling back when the Royals rallied to win and advance against the Astros in the ALDS that this was a team that wouldn’t stop until they were declared World Champions as quickly as possible.

This is the Royals’ first World Series crown since back in 1985. After making it to game seven of the Fall Classic in 2014, only to lose to the Giants, this is obvious redemption for that year. Salvador Perez, for his many contributions on multiple levels, was named MVP of the series, which was completely deserved. He was a big part of what made this Royals team so magical.

Heading forward, offseason transactions will ultimately happen. This Royals club that won the World Series will inevitably not be the exact team that takes the field on Opening Day in 2016. But there’s one thing you can guarantee: the Royals will still have a very competitive team with all sights on returning to the World Series next season and beyond.

Royals Up Two Games Heading to New York City

The World Series is always an exciting time of the year for any baseball fan, no matter who you’re rooting for. With both teams having fought all season long, neither wants to give an inch in their quest for the title, and players from both sides usually step up in a big way for their respective teams. With that said, I’m not sure anyone could’ve predicted such a game as the one that took place on Tuesday night.Escobar

Matt Harvey received the start for the Mets, going up against the Royals’ Edison Volquez. Although you had to figure Harvey would be on top of his game, things didn’t start off that well for him. On the very first pitch of the game, Alcides Escobar drove a ball deep into the outfield, which Yoenis Cespedes was unsuccessful in tracking down. When all was said and done, Escobar had score with the twelfth inside the park homer in World Series history, and the first since 1929. Just like that, it was 1-0, Royals.

Neither team would score again until the fourth inning, as Volquez was able to match Harvey pitch for pitch to begin the game. But an RBI-single in the fourth by Travis d’Arnaud, followed by a Curtis Granderson homer in the fifth and a sacrifice fly by Michael Conforto in the sixth, made it a 3-1 Mets lead. It appeared they were starting to put the game away, especially with Harvey on the hill.

But just as quickly as they took the two-run lead, they lost it in the very next set of swings for the Royals. In the bottom of the sixth, a couple of timely hits tied the game up at three apiece and made it a new ballgame. Even so, the Mets were able to take the late lead in the eighth on a fielding error, putting them up by a run heading into the bottom of the ninth.

GordonHowever, as history has shown, nothing is over until it’s over in the World Series. With one out in the bottom of the ninth against the Mets’ Jeurys Familia, Alex Gordon blasted a solo shot into deep center field to send the game to extra innings.

Due to outstanding relief work by both squads, the game would remain tied all the way until the fourteenth inning, when the Royals ultimately won with an Eric Hosmer sac fly that brought home the go ahead run to put the Royals up 1-0 in the seven game series.

After the longest game one in World Series history, you got the feeling that the entire Fall Classic would turn out to be much of the same.

The five hour and nine minute game one gave fans tons of excitement, as the back and forth lead changing between the two clubs made for a thrilling ballgame. With Jacob deGrom set to go against Johnny Cueto the very next game, things were sure to heat up in game two.

But while the expectation was a pitching duel for the second game of the World Series, it was Johnny Cueto stealing the show. With deGrom not being able to throw the ball past people the way he has in his previous starts, he struggled in this game overall, but Cueto settled in and really impressed a lot of people.deGrom

Although Cueto allowed the game’s first run in the fourth inning, coming from a contribution from Lucas Duda — he had been performing poorly throughout the playoffs until that point — Cueto really pitched well. Cueto wouldn’t allow another run in the game.

Jacob deGrom looked decent to start the game, but the wheels completely fell off in the fifth inning. RBI-singles from Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer (two RBI’s) and Mike Moustakas put the Royals up 4-1, and really gave them momentum with Cueto pitching the way he was (a complete game two-hitter). In the end, the Mets couldn’t mount a comeback and fell down two games to none in the series.

With the Royals up two games heading into game three in New York City on Friday, the Mets certainly have their backs against the wall. However, despite their poor odds, with Noah Syndergaard ready to pitch in game three and Steven Matz on the mound the next night, if the Mets can win at least one of those games, everything changes. Forcing at least a game five, the Mets would once again get Matt Harvey, then Jacob deGrom if they can extend it. Anything can happen after that.

This World Series is far from over.

Royals — Mets: World Series Predictions

I love making predictions. I’m absolutely no good at it (I picked the Blue Jays and Dodgers to be in the World Series), but I enjoy the process that goes into it, nonetheless. With that said, it is really difficult to predict a winner between the Mets and Royals for who I feel will win the 2015 World Series. They both have strengths and weaknesses, but in the end it’ll come down to which players can come through most in big spots, and that has proven time and time again to be unpredictable.

World Series

No matter what, with the Mets having not won a World Series since Bill Buckner’s infamous error in 1986, and the Royals experiencing a drought since 1985, history is guaranteed to be made for one of them sometime in the next couple of weeks.

The Mets have announced that their starting rotation is going to be Matt Harvey pitching game one, followed by Jacob deGrom (game two), Noah Syndergaard (game three) and Steven Matz (game four). Obviously, if the series goes beyond a fourth game (something that’s pretty sure to happen) then the rotation would simply begin again, with Harvey, deGrom, etc.

On the other side of the coin, the Royals haven’t yet announced their official starting rotation. There’s a lot of speculation as to whether Yordano Ventura or Edinson Volquez will get the ball in game one, with the other getting it for game two. It is also unknown whether game three would go to Chris Young or Johnny Cueto. With so much uncertainty, it’s difficult to try to predict games by looking at pitcher-pitcher matchups.

Even so, I feel like no matter who is going up against Matt Harvey, game one is likely to go to the Mets. Harvey has been great so far this postseason, and will likely even take things up a notch with it being the World Series. Going into game two, as with Harvey, anyone who matches up against deGrom is likely going to have a tough time. Although the Royals admittedly stand a better chance against deGrom than Harvey, I think the series will head back to New York for game three with the Mets up two games to zero.

Game three is where I see things turning a bit. Syndergaard has been great and is an unbelievable pitcher, but I think the Royals will get to him and win by a run or two. I see the same happening on the next night against Steven Matz. Another rookie, Matz has had a good year, but I feel the Royals will be able to tie things up at two games apiece.

I think the Mets will take the final game before heading back to Kansas City, as Harvey will be on the mound again. If they in fact have lost their first two games at home, I don’t see them allowing themselves to get swept the full three games.

Back at Kauffman Stadium, I predict the Mets will waste no time in taking the championship. Having Jacob deGrom on the mound is always a good thing, and he will inevitably pitch a good enough game to win the New York Mets the 2015 World Series.

But that’s all purely speculation, and just the way I see things unfolding. Whether or not the Mets win the Fall Classic is yet to be seen. But one thing is for sure: neither team will go down without a fight.