World Series preview: New York Mets vs. Kansas City Royals

After 2,430 games in the MLB regular season and 31 postseason games through the ALCS and NLCS, the World Series is upon us. The Royals are in the Fall Classic for the second consecutive season, while the Mets have reached the Series for the first time since the Subway Series of 2000. Given their success last season, it’s not totally unexpected that the Royals are here. The Mets, however, weren’t expected to make it this far, particularly after being just three games over .500 at the end of July. The trade-deadline acquisition of OF Yoenis Cespedes, however, helped catapult the Mets to a 37-22 record from August 1 to the end of the regular season. The Royals also made some trades at the deadline — the biggest was trading for SP Johnny Cueto — but they haven’t had as big of an impact as the Cespedes deal.

The Mets are the hotter of the two teams entering the World Series, having swept the Cubs in four games in the NLCS, but the sweep — which ended on Wednesday — also means that they have a lot of downtime before getting underway in Game 1 six days after winning the NL pennant. The Royals, meanwhile, needed six games to beat the Blue Jays in the ALCS, which ended on Friday.

The Royals have home-field advantage, thanks to the American League’s victory in July’s All-Star Game. That means Games 1 and 2 will be in Kansas City, Mo., as will Games 6 and 7, if necessary. Games 3, 4 and (if necessary) 5 are scheduled for Citi Field in Queens, N.Y. Assuming there are no rainouts, the schedule sees the first two games being played this Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a travel day on Thursday before picking up again for the Mets’ home games on Friday, Saturday and (if necessary) Sunday. If the series extends to six or seven games, those are set to be played next Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 3 and 4, respectively. First pitch for all games, except Game 5 on Sunday, are scheduled for 8:07pm Eastern; first pitch Sunday is at 8:15pm Eastern.

The Mets have a distinct advantage in the starting rotation, with pitchers Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndegaard — who are slated to start the first three games — among the best in the NL this season; deGrom and Harvey ranked fourth and sixth, respectively, in the league in ERA during the regular season. Steven Matz, who had a decent 3.24 ERA in 24 starts this year, is scheduled to take the mound for Game 4. Inconsistency is the common thread among the Royals’ rotation, which features Edinson Volquez starting Game 1 on Tuesday, followed by Cueto in Game 2 on Wednesday. Yordano Ventura, who was sent down to the minors for a short time during the season, gets the Game 3 start on Friday. Saturday’s Game 4 will see Chris Young, who pitched out of the bullpen for much of the season, get the start.

Speaking of the bullpen, the Royals have the advantage there. The team’s relievers had the second-best ERA in the majors during the regular season, at 2.72. RP Wade Davis — who allowed just 7 earned runs in 67.1 innings during the regular season — took over as the team’s closer late in the season after Greg Holland suffered a season-ending injury. On the Mets side, RP Jeurys Familia notched 43 saves in his first full season in the closer’s role while posting a 1.85 ERA. While the Mets should feel confident if they can get the game in Familia’s hands with a lead, the rest of the bullpen has some question marks in it as it bridges the gap between the starters and closer.

There isn’t as clear of an advantage for either team offensively, although the Mets’ bats came alive in the second half of the season after acquiring Cespedes at the deadline. The Mets — and 2B Daniel Murphy, in particular, who has hit a home run in a MLB-record six-straight postseason games — were swinging hot bats during the NLCS against the Cubs, but with nearly a week off before the start of the World Series, they may lose some of that momentum they had in the previous series.

Overall, I think the Mets are the better team right now, and I think they’ll win in six games, bringing the World Series trophy back to Queens for the first time since 1986. And I’ll say deGrom is named the series MVP.

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