The New York Mets are down 2-0 in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. In order to win, the Mets must win four games before the Royals win two more. Mets GM Sandy Alderson once referred to the team’s beat writers as “the citizens of Panic City.” A back-page headline in New York Thursday morning played off that phrase. But to quote Will Ferrell in Old School, “We’ve gotta keep our composure! We’ve come too far! There’s too much to lose!” Here are five reasons why Mets fans shouldn’t panic.
- They’re coming home
Including playoffs, the Mets are 52-33 at home this season compared to 45-43 on the road. The Royals don’t turn to pumpkins away from Kaufman Stadium (46-40 on the road, including playoffs), but they’ll lose their designated hitter at Citi Field. The Royals were 5-5 in National League parks this season and either sat switch-hitting DH Kendrys Morales or moved him to first in place of left-handed hitting Eric Hosmer. Regardless of what the Royals decide in the two or three games in New York, they’ll be missing a regular bat in their lineup. And the Mets starting pitchers the next two games, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, are respectable hitters.
- The pitching matchups
No matter who’s on the mound, the Mets never feel the pitching matchup is clearly in the other team’s favor. That’s the luxury of having four talented young starters. But while the edge is negligible or nonexistent against the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, or Jon Lester—four pitchers the Mets beat this postseason—it’s pronounced when you get to the third and fourth starters. Syndergaard has the stuff of a No. 1 pitcher: his fastball can reach 100 miles per hour and opponents are hitting just .168 against his curveball. He was terrific in his final 16 regular season starts (2.91 ERA) and has looked great in the playoffs. There’s a drop-off to Matz, but not a huge one. (Matz and I will have something in common when we show up at Citi on Saturday: We’ll both have slept in our childhood beds the night before. It’s likely only one of us will have done so in a bunk bed, however.)
The Royals will turn to their promising young pitcher Yordano Ventura in Game 3 and veteran Chris Young on Saturday. They’re average pitchers, and the Mets have crushed average pitchers this postseason.
- They are who we thought they were
As soon as the series was set, you heard the key matchup was going to be the Mets’ flamethrowers against the Royals’ contact-heavy, strikeout-averse, fastball-hitting lineup. Kansas City supporters felt their hitters could handle the heat. New York fans reminded them that the Mets’ aces were more than just pitching machines cranked to max speed. Both were correct, and still are.
The Royals hit pitches of 95 miles per hour better than any team this season. Overall, they tied for second in MLB in team batting average and ranked seventh in runs scored. Those last two stats prove two things: The Royals have a very good offense but they are not the 1927 Yankees. Likewise, deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard, and Matz are not interchangeable with Spahn, Koufax, Ryan, and Johnson (Walter, not Chris). They’re very good, but not unhittable. Through two rounds of this fight, the Royals have won. They’ve done it on the strength of two very good innings: the sixth in Game 1 against Harvey and the death-by-singles fifth against deGrom in Game 2.
- The bats should wake up
Did Daniel Murphy carry the Mets to the World Series? And now that his “magic” is “gone,” are they doomed? The quotes appear because while Murphy hasn’t homered in the two games, he doesn’t suddenly look lost or overmatched. As much as a position player can, Murphy won the decisive NLDS game. But take away his other home runs and the Mets still would have had enough runs to win the games. That’s not meant to diminish his insane production, but the Mets starting pitchers were just as critical.
Murphy doesn’t have to hit multiple homers this weekend. But the Mets as a team could use a power surge, or simply get more guys going. Other than Murphy, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, and, in limited action, Juan Lagares, Mets position players are batting just .171 in the playoffs. When you consider that much of that production came in a 13-run performance in Game 3 of the NLCS, the numbers look even bleaker. The Mets don’t need Murphy to regain his Ruthian form; they just need Yoenis Cespedes, David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Michael Conforto, and others to play to their capabilities. Against non-elite pitching on Friday and Saturday, at least, they should.
- Ya Gotta Believe
Don’t take the Mets’ team motto at face value, though the fact that the current players are aware that the 1986 championship team overcame a 2-0 World Series deficit can’t hurt. Same goes for the fact that they were not predicted to make the playoffs, or beat the Dodgers or Cubs, or that they returned to New York in the NLDS having lost a game and their shortstop on a single play, still needing to beat Greinke or Kershaw to advance.
Remember, this is the World Series. The opponent represents the best the American League has to offer. It isn’t supposed to be easy. Many fans just forgot that since the NLCS sweep against the Cubs, in which the Mets never trailed, sort of was. The Royals, last year’s runner-up, would make for a worthy champion. But so would the Mets. They were a caught fly ball or clean ninth inning away from taking Game 1. Nobody would be panicking if this series returned to New York tied. But it’s not, and now the Mets must win four of six. Let’s take one game at a time. Right now, all they have to do is win their first home game of the series, which they’ve done 19 out of 28 times this year. Believe in that.
If you want to hear the optimism in my voice, check out my interview with ESPN radio in Hawaii from Thursday: