It’s safe to say neither World Series game has gone as expected so far. No one could have predicted the 14 inning thriller that was Game 1, and all indications pointed towards deGrom to outpitch Cueto in Game 2. That was certainly not the case, and here are my 10 thoughts on how the Royals took a commanding 2-0 lead:
Young Guys Not Quite Making Plays: Early on in this game plenty of players appeared to be nervous in the field, leading to some miscues. Moustakas threw wide on a double play that could have ended the 4th inning, and although it technicaly was not an error (you don’t assume the double play, which effectively means you can throw a 75 hopper to the first baseman and if the runners don’t advance it’s not an error) it led to the Mets only run of the evening. At the time this was a critical play, as DeGrom appeared to be in control, and one run felt like a huge deficit. But the Mets looked shaky as well in the 4th inning, when Duda booted a ball at first and Lagares couldn’t corral a tough but makeable shoe string catch. The Royals didn’t score, but from that point on it felt that deGrom was constantly working out of trouble.
More Small Ball: The Royals ability to score runs without power is incredible. They scored 7 runs while notching just three extra base hits, with only two runs scoring as a result of an extra base hit. Especially considering how difficult it is to get a single hit against the likes of Harvey and deGrom, this feat has been impressive. In my mind, two key pieces have led to this:
The Royals Just Don’t Miss: In 29 starts in 2015, deGrom struck out fewer than three batters just twice. In Matt Harvey’s 29 starts, he struck out fewer than three batters just once. That tells you all you need to know about this Royals team. They do whatever it takes to make contact, and it leads to runs. The Royals only swung and missed at 3 of deGrom’s pitches, an unbelievable stat, and one that led to…
0-2 Mistakes: The first Royals run came off the bat of Alcides Escobar, on an 0-2 pitch, a slider that stayed up in the zone and over the plate. This is an unusual mistake from deGrom, and Harold Reynolds (whose analysis I have been enjoying tremendously this series) alertly pointed to how the Royals ability to fight off pitches “puts so much pressure on a pitcher to make a perfect pitch.” A lot of times when you try to do too much, you make a mistake, and the Royals made the Mets pay for those mistakes all night long.
Cueto Shines: In my Game 1 recap, I pointed to Cueto’s lack of success against the Mets in his career, as well as his recent struggles. Well all of that went out the door in Game 2, as he absolutely dominated this game, throwing the first World Series complete game since 1991 (a 10 inning Game 7 shutout from Jack Morris). A day after the Royals needed 8 innings from their bullpen, including heavy pitch counts from Herrera, Davis and potential Game 4 starter Chris Young, Cueto delivered and put the Royals in the driver seat.
Silent Mets Bats: As good as Cueto was, the Mets got away from their offensive approach. This team is built around line drives and fly balls, yet only managed 6 fly outs in this game. Certainly credit Cueto with inducing lots of ground balls (the Mets only struck out four times), but to me it seemed like the Mets hitters were not aggressive enough early in counts and let Cueto set the tone of this game.
MVP: The obvious MVP of this game was Johnny Cueto, but after two games its looking like a two man race between Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon. Gordon, the long time face of the Royals’s franchise is having a great series, and Escobar has not cooled down from his torrid playoff pace. I’ll give the slight edge to Gordon since his Game 1 home run not only was more clutch, but also actually deserved to be a home run.
Royals Outlook: Obviously, things could not be looking better for Kansas City. The big question marks on this series were their ability to handle Harvey and deGrom, and which Cueto we would see. They’ve continued to get stronger offensively as games go on, and their bullpen looks just as loaded as ever. But there is still a long way to go, as the Mets rotation will not go down without a fight.
Mets Outlook: Again an obvious thing to say, but Game 3 has become a must win. Not coming away with a win from Harvey or DeGrom feels eerily similar to the Cubs demise when they went the first two games without a win from Lester or Arrieta. But this Mets team has been touted as having arguably the deepest World Series rotation of all time, so it’s not over yet. It wouldn’t even be the first for this franchise, as they did in ’86. But the Royals overcame a devastating error from a firstbaseman in this series, don’t count on another one.
Game 3 Preview: We should be in for a doozy here, and fans of radar gun watching should enjoy the fire show of Yordano Ventura against Noah Sydnergaard. It will be interesting to see how the Royals approach playing games in the NL especially considering the importance of Kendrys Morales to their lineup, but the Royals approach of contact hitting and good defense makes them seem more like a NL club to begin with. But it should be a fun weekend of baseball; I hope we get to see this thing go back to Kansas City because I’m not ready for baseball to be over just yet.