Mets face tough road as Series heads to NY
NEW YORK -- The Mets are likely to have their hands full with the Royals on Friday night. At the same time, Matt Harvey's second favorite New York team, the NHL's Rangers, will be entertaining the Maple Leafs a few miles west of Citi Field. Chances are Harvey and his colleagues will pay little attention to developments at Madison Square Garden. Yet they may do well to embrace one of the tenets of postseason hockey, which says, "A series doesn't begin until the home team loses."
With that said, baseball isn't hockey; it has no home ice. And this World Series clearly is two-games old. To the dismay of Terry Collins, David Wright and those who figure to shoehorn their way into Citi Field for Game 3 (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8 p.m. game time), it is two losses old. After 23 innings, most of which have been intense, the Royals' performance has been quite strong; the Mets' has been just OK.
So where do the Mets go from here, now that they are the home team for two or -- they fervently hope -- three games? Where do they find the wherewithal to reverse the flow on this best-of-seven series and stand up to the American League champion Royals? What can they expect of themselves when little of what happened in Games 1 and 2 fell within the realm of expectation?
How do they think positively when three of their most reliable players -- Jeuerys Familia, Jacob deGrom and Yoenis Cespedes -- have been neutralized and the Joe Hardy days of Daniel Murphy have ended?
If these Mets were, in some way, truly linked to their ancestors who won the World Series in 1986, they could embrace the home run Lenny Dykstra delivered leading off the first inning of Game 3 in Boston against the Red Sox. It was the first component of a four-run rally and a 7-1 victory that turned the series and allowed the Mets to think positively.
Dykstra's home run also provided a touch of similarity to the franchise's two other World Series ventures. Tommie Agee (1969) and Wayne Garrett (1973) had hit home runs leading of the first innings of Game 3. Not too meaningful a link in either instance, the Mets won Game 3 in '69 and lost it four years later. And in Game 3 in 2000, Timo Perez, the Mets leadoff man, struck out in the first.
So perhaps, if Yordano Ventura throws something fat and to the liking of Curtis Granderson in the first inning Friday and if the Grandyman can, the Series will turn. And perhaps not. The Royals have demonstrated a superiority to the Mets in several phases of the game. And one run in the bottom of the first might be more of a signal for the Royals to start their engines than a statement of challenge from the home team.
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Losing the first two games of the World Series is not a recommended course of action regardless of what developed in the Buckner Series. Before the Royals flattened the Mets on Wednesday night, 53 teams had taken 2-0 leads in the Series, and 42 of the 53 (79.2 percent) had gone on to take the Series. The percentage is higher in the 16 most recent instances; the team that won the first two games won the Series 15 times (93.8).
So the Mets have Ventura and history, if not more, against them.
They have spoken so often about their resilience. Through two games though, their resilience has been overmatched by Royals relievers. The Mets are wont to point to their sweep of the Nationals in the three games that followed their rough 8-7 home loss to the Padres on July 30. It was evidence of their mettle, they say. And it was. But, as we later learned, the Nationals were a flawed team. The Royals have shown us, this October and last, that their backbone is composed of titanium.
The Mets probably will win at least once in the first two games at the Big Citi and create a traffic headache of massive proportions -- the Series and the New York Marathon -- Sunday. They might even force a second "if necessary" game and a return trip to Wilbert Harrison's favorite city. But the Royals are the better team. And the Mets already recognize the difference and some newly found vulnerability.
Maybe, come March, David Wright will share the thoughts that flooded his mind Wednesday after Royals 7, Mets 1. He routinely tells the truth if it won't undermine his team. For he speaks with hope.
Of course he does. They all do. Baseball is a game of self-deception. How else can those assertions "I can hit Kershaw" and "I can hit Koufax" be explained? Somehow the Red Sox overcame the Yankees in '04. Sometimes the deception works.
Upsets do happen. But for every mind-bending upset -- the 1960 Pirates over the Yankees, the 1990 Reds over the A's -- there are results that surprise no one -- '84 Tigers over the Padres and the '98 Yankees over the Padres. Which is not to suggest these Mets are sweep meat. But they didn't match up well with the Royals before the World Series began, and it's no better now. The Royals have overcome Familia, deGrom and Cespedes and unplugged Murphy. They don't swing and miss, and their bullpen is deeper than one man.
And though the home team hasn't lost yet, this series clearly has begun. At the same time, it appears to be over.