The Mets defeated the Royals by the score of 9-3 on Friday night at Citi Field in Game 3 of the World Series.
The Mets now trail the Royals 2-1 in the World Series.
Here are my takeaways from the win…
Mets answered the call, took the first step.
The Mets fell down 2-0 in this World Series using an awkward approach on the mound, and a passive approach at the plate, at least for the most part.
So it was time for the Mets to change the program on both sides of the ball.
They did, and it paid off.
But it didn’t look that way early when the Royals did what they normally do, and that was attack Noah Syndergaard’s aggressive fastball approach, and tagged him for two runs in the first inning. Kansas City certainly benefitted from some bad calls on some balls and strikes, and translated them into a couple of soft singles which helped them to create a run after Ben Zobrist doubled against Syndergaard.
But the Mets immediately responded with a two-run home run from David Wright immediately following an aggressively-attacked single by the usually patient Curtis Granderson to leadoff the first.
But the Royals struck right back for two runs against Syndergaard, who was missing his located by just a bit in the second inning, although there’s no question the stuff was there for him right out of the gate. He allowed a soft single to Salvador Perez after he really had him struck out if not for a poor call again from the home plate umpire. Then Alex Gordon singled to right. Alex Rios then tagged a first pitch fastball and laced it to left field to plate Perez. The Mets almost fell victim to another bad call, this one at third base when Wright had tagged out Gordon before he reached third. But the Mets challenged, won and got the out.
It was huge, because Yordano Ventura successfully got a bunt down to get Rios to third, and then Travis d’Arnaud let a ball go through his legs to let the third Kansas City run of the night to score.
It was at that point Syndergaard figured it out. He retired the next 12 in a row thanks to getting his fastball down in the zone, getting a little more bite on his curve, and a little extra run on his two-seamer.
That afforded the Mets an opportunity to strike back, which they did in the bottom of the third inning thanks to a two-run home run for Curtis Granderson, and an RBI infield single from Michael Conforto.
From there, that’s all Syndergaard and the Mets really needed, although they scored some insurance runs in the sixth inning thanks in part to the return of Juan Uribe, who singled in the sixth Met run of the night in his first at-bat since September, a two-run single in what was the capper to a big night for Wright and a sac fly from Yoenis Cespedes to plate Granderson to complete the Mets scoring.
They made it all stand up to take an absolute must-win Game 3 against the Royals to get themselves back in this World Series.
Syndergaard really pitched a dandy of a ballgame. He allowed six hits through two innings, and one hit through the next four innings. He was just tremendous.
Syndergaard had the right approach early, but was victimized by some tough calls on some balls and strikes early in the first inning, and he was missing his location just a bit which caused him to give up some runs in the first and second innings.
But the key for Syndergaard is he stuck with what got him here and made him so successful even though he struggled early with his location: his fastball.
But he settled in, didn’t deviate from his game plan, pounded the lower part of the strike zone with fastballs (four-seam and two-seam) and curveballs, and actually got some swings and misses from the Royals.
It was clear how good his swing-and-miss stuff was when he just owned Alcides Escobar in the fifth inning, and then ate up Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer for three straight strikeouts.
He got 16 swings-and-misses in total, which is a story in and of itself.
It was a tough night, because early on the Royals were so aggressive, taking advantage of some tough calls, and just finding holes for hits. The only hard hit ball was from Ben Zobrist who hit a long double to center field, but other than that Syndergaard allowed a lot of broken bat hits in those early innings.
But he was changing eye levels after that second inning, going up and down, left and ride, and sneaking in some curveballs and change-ups to keep the Royals guessing and off-balanced. Then he willed himself out of a difficult jam in the sixth inning when suddenly, the Royals just stopped swinging at his off-speed stuff. That played a big role in his big night, which the Mets so badly needed.
A little relentlessness of their own.
The Mets completely transformed their approach against the Royals on Friday night, and for good reason since they just couldn’t get anything done trying to wait out their staff in the first two games of this series.
They got back to what made them good in August and September, and that is attacking strikes aggressively. They did not wait for strikes and fall into the spells of the Royals pitching staff. Rather, they were explosive early and ambushed Ventura and that vaunted Royals bullpen.
It’s an approach they’re simply going to have to employ until the Royals find a way to miss bats again early in the count. They don’t have the starting staff to get that done, but it’s up to the Mets to just put the pedal to the metal and take what they get and pummel them going forward in this series.
They did that on Friday night, and turned their must-win Game 3 into a laugher in what was a very entertaining and energizing game. They needed this, and now they’re back in the World Series.
Again, this was a really fun game. But all it means is it’s now 2-1 in the World Series. Yes, it’s better than 3-0 Royals, but none the less the Mets have work to do on Saturday to erase this deficit.
The good news is they’re facing Chris Young, a guy Dan Warthen, Terry Collins and some other Mets know real well from his time with the Mets a few years back. And, they got a really good look at him in Game 1 with his extended outing in relief. He could also be impacted by that extended outing, which might play into the Mets favor.
Perhaps more significant is they now have an idea on how to handle the Royals lineup, and how to neutralize them going forward. Hopefully Steven Matz did his homework and understands what he now needs to do on Saturday to get outs against this absurdly good offense, as like Syndergaard, he will be pitching the biggest game of his life for a team he grew up adoring.
No matter what, the Mets must find a way to tie this series up on Saturday, and put this in Matt Harvey’s hands on Sunday night.
But this was indeed a very good first step for the Mets.
Other notes from Friday:
Wright is the first Met to drive in four or more runs in a World Series game since Rusty Staub drove in five runs in Game 3 of the 1973 World Series.
The Mets are now 4-1 all-time in Game 3 of the World Series, having lost Game 3 of the 1973 World Series against the A’s at Shea Stadium.
The Mets are now 30-14 (.682) all-time at home during postseason play, the best home winning percentage of any major league team in the postseason.
Mets pitching held the Royals to just one hit over the final seven innings in Game 3.