Royals’ offense powers past Mets promising pitchers in World Series

The baseball season has come to an end after the Kansas City Royals beat the New York Mets in five games to win the World Series. Despite the short-lived series, it was still one for the ages: a franchise was bound to be victorious for the first time in 30 years.

Both teams had not met in the regular season. Many analysts had tied predictions to when individual players had met in other years or with other teams. The Mets’ pitching was matched by a Royals offense that attacked early in the count to pressure a shoddy defense. Ultimately, poor defensive choices in high-pressure situations cost the Mets the title in a couple of late-game scenarios where they held the lead. Nonetheless, fans were given a glimpse of a rivalry to build off of a rich and distant history between the two teams that resonated so well with each other. Although both teams have not seen much success since their golden years in the 1980s, the two franchises managed to overcome a long period of losing seasons and have begun to form a promising farm system with seasoned young rotation players for the long term in the league.

The Mets were the Cinderella story for the arc of the 2015 playoffs, while the Royals were the ones who took the crown in the end to complete their fairy tale run that started when they lost in seven games to the San Francisco Giants in last year’s World Series.

While they were applauded for re-signing Eric Hosmer, their cleanup hitter and golden glove first baseman, many analysts did not expect them to repeat their season because of their roster losses, most noticeably their ace James Shield.

Nonetheless, they bolstered their rotation by signing Edinson Volquez in the offseason, who allowed a total of five runs in a combined 13 innings in the World Series. Volquez received two no-decisions from the Royals who ended up winning both competitions. The Royals also added Johnny Cueto in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds, and became a second punch in the rotation with his unorthodox pitching strategies. Known for being a pitcher who tends to be streaky per outing, Cueto flashed his dominance in Game 2 of the World Series by pitching a complete game. The line up experienced the biggest improvement, providing a different arsenal of weapons on the plate from their leadoff hitter down to their no. 9 hitter.  After adding Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales in the offseason to a line up that already included Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez, the Royals went out and acquired utility man Ben Zobrist from the Oakland Athletics. Zobrist was a player that the Mets coveted before finalizing a trade with the Detroit Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes shouldered an inefficient offense with an absolutely dominating second half of the season, thrusting the Mets into the playoffs and their first World Series since 2000.

The Mets’ pitching rotation managed to outduel Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, with a run-producing offense led by Daniel Murphy and his flaming bat in the National League Division Series. They followed that opening five-game series with a four-game sweep against the Cubs, slaying the two-headed flamethrowers Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. This was the first time the Mets had ever swept a team in a playoff series and were this hot heading into the World Series.

Unfortunately, they had to wait for a series that dragged on between the Royals and Toronto Blue Jays. With time to cool off, the Royals entered the World Series hungry for redemption, and it was evident in how vicious they attacked the Mets’ pitchers. The first pitch of the World Series was an inside-the-park homerun by Alcides Escobar. While the Mets succumbed to their stagnant offense, they could not rely on their bullpen to close out games. While Jonathon Niese and Bartolo Colon displayed solid efforts in relief outings, other bullpen weapons froze up, most notably Jeurys Familia and Tyler Clippard. While Clippard had struggled throughout most of the playoffs, Familia displayed dominance and was thrown into situations in the World Series that were not entirely his fault.

Head coach Terry Collins made questionable decisions, but allowing Matt Harvey to go into the ninth inning for the complete game shutout in Game 5 was definitely not one of them. He displayed trust in his starters and while he let the emotions get the best of him, it was symbolic of how much he cares about the morale of his players. No one could have predicted Harvey would give up a string of hits, and the Royals would tactically attack Familia to score without getting a hit. Besides, if Lucas Duda made a clean throw to home on Hosmer’s bold decision, the Mets could have been on their way to Game 6 on a two-game winning streak with deGrom and Syndergaard scheduled to pitch the next two games.

As a lifetime Mets fan, entertaining the idea of that situation coming to fruition in a paradoxical world is satisfying, but the reality is that the Royals outplayed the Mets both strategically and emotionally. They wanted it more, and it was evident in each decision made in the coaching duel between Ned Yost and Collins.

The offense was hungry for revenge and their defense was stingy when it mattered. Adding that to the equation of an opposing lineup that is both inexperienced and playing on extended rest, and the Royals’ blueprint of returning to win it all is a success. With one story coming to full circle, Mets fans can rest on the fact that the young Mets’ core will be back next year, anchored by Harvey. After all, Gotham needs its hero to relinquish its dark history.

SportsSportsComment