deGrom a source of hope entering Game 2
Right-hander looks to improve on perfect postseason record on Wednesday
KANSAS CITY -- There were no heads hanging in the Mets' clubhouse. They know how close they were to winning one of the best Game 1s in World Series history, and if they could have snatched it before all the blue-clad fans at Kauffman Stadium, they would have shocked the Royals, for sure.
But for David Wright, Jeurys Familia, Daniel Murphy and everybody else, this isn't about the angst over one sinker that didn't sink or all the missed opportunities to drive in runs. It's about the positive energy they pick up knowing they have their ace, Jacob deGrom, going in Game 2 on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET airtime on FOX, game time at 8).
With extra rest.
"He's been excellent this postseason," Wright said after the 5-4, 14-inning loss in Game 1. "Even when he doesn't have his best stuff, he's found ways to win. He's a stopper for us. We feel good every time he's on the mound."
deGrom is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his three postseason starts. He beat Clayton Kershaw in the first game of the National League Division Series and Zack Greinke in the deciding Game 5, then kept the Wrigley Field crowd quiet for seven innings in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series.
deGrom will match up against the enigmatic Johnny Cueto, with a chance to send the Series to Citi Field tied 1-1. It won't be easy to beat the Royals, as Familia saw for himself when Alex Gordon drove a 97-mph sinker over the center-field wall in the ninth inning, forcing extra innings. But the Mets have gone 23-10 behind deGrom, including four consecutive wins since Terry Collins had him skip a September start, acknowledging fatigue from an increased workload over his NL Rookie of the Year Award-winning season in 2014.
"The great thing is we've got a chance tomorrow," Wright said. "I think that's the beautiful thing about the game in general. You can have a tough loss like this one day and bounce back tomorrow and hopefully get the 'W.' … We were one hit or one play away from winning that game."
There were plenty of things the Mets could have done to turn this loss into a win, beginning with Collins' choice to play Yoenis Cespedes in center field rather than moving rookie left fielder Michael Conforto to DH and playing Juan Lagares in center. That came back to bite the Mets on Matt Harvey's first pitch of the game, which went for an inside-the-park homer by Alcides Escobar when Conforto mistakenly thought Cespedes had called him off the ball.
In the end, it was Wright getting caught between hops on an Escobar grounder in the 14th inning that set up the Royals' winning run. And along the way, the Mets were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, dropping their average in those situations to .160 over their past seven games.
But in this postseason, they've almost always had the pitching to be on the field for the game's last out. This marked only the third time in 10 games that their opponent scored more than three runs. That should build the confidence to keep them from overreacting to this five-hour, nine-minute loss.
Collins used 18 players, and Curtis Granderson was the only one of them who wasn't playing in his first World Series game. He'd waited nine years for another chance after going 2-for-21 as the Tigers' leadoff man against the Cardinals in the 2006 World Series. There were sure to be more wide-eyed players in the visitors' dugout than the home team's, as the Royals seek to complete their unfinished business from Game 7 a year ago.
"I don't think there was anything you needed to learn [about the Royals] that we already didn't know," Granderson said. "It's a team that pitches well, they play good defense, they can hit the long ball. They can move on the basepaths. They did exactly all those things that we knew coming into tonight."
You're mistaken if you believe Familia is going to stop overpowering hitters because Gordon got the barrel of his bat on the ball in the ninth inning -- "tomorrow's another day," he said -- or that Wright is going to be swinging for five-run homers after his error in the 14th inning and two strikeouts with men in scoring position, including a costly one to end the 11th inning.
"We've been resilient all year," Wright said. "I expect us to come out and play a clean and crisp one tomorrow. It's obviously a tough one for us to swallow, but once we leave the ballpark tonight, we need to forget about it and start focusing on [Wednesday's] game. Coming into it, we knew they're an excellent opponent. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. These are the type of hurdles we're going to have to clear if we expect to win this thing."
The Mets have been clearing hurdles all year, and they are here because of the job that Familia did when Jenrry Mejia was suspended for PED use, and because of how well Wilmer Flores has handled shortstop since Chase Utley's slide took out Ruben Tejada. They're here because their lineup became the most dangerous one in the NL after they traded for Cespedes and promoted Conforto. They're here because they have a great collection of young arms, not unlike the 1986 Mets.
That team featured a rotation of 20-somethings including Doc Gooden, Sid Fernandez, Ron Darling and Bob Ojeda, and it won the World Series after losing the first two games to the Red Sox. It had the arms to climb out of that hole, and you can say the same thing about these Mets.
They're down. But they are a long, long way from out.