Players in the Postseason: #WinorGoHome #ItsBlackandWhite (Oct. 29)
Updated: Oct. 29
This player was introduced to baseball at a young age, because his dad played in adult leagues in the Dominican Republic. But he stopped playing for a year when he was 14, because he wanted to work in construction with his stepfather. He did that, and drove a delivery truck for his grandfather's hardware store. Eventually, a former Little League coach made a special trip to his classroom, uniform in hand, and asked this player to start playing again. After some convincing, he agreed, and the rest is history. Who is he?
The real Johnny Cueto
After mostly struggling this postseason, Johnny Cueto was the wheeling-and-dealing, ultra-confident version of himself in World Series Game 2.
Disrupting the Mets hitters' timing with his whirling, multi-speed delivery and strong command, Cueto pitched a complete game, allowing just two hits, walking three and striking out four. Before that, the Dominican right-hander had been 1-3 with a 6.93 ERA in the postseason.
But last night, Cueto told reporters, he was on something of a mission following the death of teammate Edinson Volquez's father the previous day.
"There was a lot of focus on my part. I dedicated the game to Volquez's dad and the whole family," he said.
The relentless Royals
Jacob deGrom is known for striking out batters. The Royals are known for not striking out. One had to give in Game 2, and it turned out to be deGrom and the Mets.
DeGrom was strong at the outset and took a 1-0 lead into the fifth, when the relentless Royals undid him in typical Royals fashion -- sending nine batters to the plate and scoring four runs without the benefit of an extra-base hit.
After a leadoff walk to Gordon, there were five singles. Alex Rios singled to left, Alcides Escobar singled to center, Kendrys Morales singled to right and Mike Moustakas punched a single up the middle to score Hosmer and make it 4-1.
DeGrom ended up allowing four runs and six hits while walking three and striking out just two Royals.
The crack of the bat
FiveThirtyEight's Neil Paine reports today that the Royals' hitters are "decisively winning" the battle of contact with the Mets' power pitchers.
"During the regular season, the group of pitchers that the Mets have thus far used in the World Series struck out 23 percent of opposing batters, while the particular group of hitters the Royals have used struck out in 15.2 percent of their plate appearances. Doing a little cross-multiplication using the 2015 MLB-wide average strikeout rate of 20.4 percent, we would have expected New York's pitchers to set down 17.2 percent of Kansas City batters on strikes in the World Series.
"But instead of striking out 17.2 percent of the time, Kansas City hitters have whiffed in only 10.3 percent of their plate appearances through two games, a pretty sizable departure from expectations. There was only an 11.8 percent probability that Kansas City's strikeout rate against these Mets pitchers would be as low as it has been through two games."
Based on World Series history, the Royals have about an 80 percent chance of winning with a 2-0 lead heading into Game 3 in New York on Friday at 8:07 p.m. ET on FOX.
Forty-two of the 53 teams that have taken a 2-0 lead have gone on to win. However, the 1986 Mets, who beat the Red Sox in seven games, were one of the 11 teams that defied the odds. The '85 Royals were another.
The big chill
The Royals pitchers aren't allowing the previously red-hot Daniel Murphy to hurt them.
Murphy, who has already set a MLB postseason record by hitting home runs in six straight games and a Mets' postseason record with 18 hits, struck out twice and walked twice in Game 2, and is now 2-for-9 (.222) with four strikeouts in the World Series.
"He really hasn't gotten too many pitches to hit, is the bottom line," hitting coach Kevini Long said. "Low, off the plate, high. He walked twice today. He's doing what he needs to do. He's taking what they're giving him. They haven't given him a whole lot."
"I missed a pitch or two, probably, that I'd like to have back," Murphy said.
The celebrity hedges his bet
We've heard quite a bit about actor Paul Rudd's allegiance to the Royals the past couple of seasons during the postseason. We didn't hear as much about his other baseball allegiance -- to the Mets! -- until more recently.
Last night, Rudd, who grew up in Kansas City and has attended each of the first two World Series games, let it be known that he also has a soft spot for the Mets.
"The Mets are a great team, too," Rudd told the New York Daily News. "I live in New York and I feel like these two teams share a similarity in style of play.
"I've always liked the Mets. It isn't just sucking up. If the Royals were to lose to the Mets in this series, that's OK. … Mets fans and Royals fans, they have had a shared kind of frustration over the years."
The Master speaks
If you're going to take advice from another closer, it might as well be one who pitched to a stingy 0.70 ERA in 96 postseason games and saved a record 42 of them.
So while unsolicited, it was worth listening to what Mariano Rivera said his advice would be to the Mets' young closer, Jeurys Familia, after the youngster gave up a ninth-inning, game-tying home run to Alex Gordon in World Series Game 1.
"The challenge as a closer, he has a lot more opportunities," Rivera said before the game. "It was game No. 1, and that's behind him already. Hopefully he has the same opportunity so he can do the job he knows how to do -- because he has been doing a tremendous job."
What experience, you might ask, does Rivera have with failure? Well before he was the great, on-his-way-to-the-Hall-of-Fame Mariano, the slender Panamanian gave up a game-tying home run to Sandy Alomar Jr. in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the ALDS in 1997 in Cleveland -- an inning that Rivera considers a turning point in his career.
Familia had pitched 9 2/3 innings in the first two rounds of the postseason and gotten the last out in the eighth inning of World Series Game 1 before the blown save on Gordon's home run.
"So we'll see," Rivera said. "When that happens we'll see. Because, again, I have seen him pitching basically the whole year and he has done a tremendous job. He's been doing [it economically]. He's been outstanding. We'll see after the next one what will happen."
Rivera attended the game to present current Yankees closer Andrew Miller with the AL Reliever of the Year Award.
The Trivia Answer
Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals
Follow us @MLB_Players and to catch our postseason social media series, titled #WinOrGoHome #ItsBlackandWhite, featuring some up-close photos courtesy of Getty Sports.