By: Joe Botana
“Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.”
As game three of the 2015 World Series approaches, the Royals and the Mets will have different variants of this maxim on their minds. Kansas City will seek to learn the lesson of history which teaches that teams can go down two games to none and still come back to win the Series so they can avoid an unpleasant repetition. New York will attempt to learn the same lesson, but in their case it will be so they can repeat it for their own benefit.
On nearly a dozen occasions, teams have found themselves down two games to none and come back to win the World Series. It happens roughly 10% of the time. Sure, it is rare, but it certainly is not a “black swan” event. In fact, it has been done six times since the 1960’s, for an even higher rate of almost 14%. Both of these teams have actually each done it once during that period. The Royals accomplished the feat in 1985 against the Cardinals, and the Mets repeated it the next year against the Red Sox.
After two games at the Royals’ Kauffman Field home, the Mets return to the welcoming diamond at Citi Field, seeking to quickly and dramatically reverse their fortunes. Clearly, it is now “Go Time” for the New Yorkers, since digging a 3-0 hole would almost certainly prove too much of a deficit to overcome. They will send Noah “Thor” Syndergaard (9-7 / 3.24 ERA) to the mound, seeking to finally halt the Royals’ parade of singles which have brought previous NY pitchers to so much grief. Mets pitchers achieved a 10.2 K/9 inning strikeout rate in the first two rounds of the post season, but have only managed 4.2 K/9 inning against Royals batters. This is not surprising, as during the regular season, KC batters put up the best batting average against 95+ mph pitching of any team in MLB.
Opposing Thor and representing the Royals in this pitching duel of young fireballers will be Yordano Ventura (13-8 / 4.08 ERA). While the Mets’ ace averaged 97.4 mph on his fastball, and topped out at 101.4 on the radar gun, Ventura was just a shade less fast (the word “slower” seems like a misnomer here) at 96.8 mph average and 100.6 top speed through the speed trap. This will be Ventura’s fourth appearance in this post season, with one win and an ERA of roughly 5.00. Syndergaard has excelled thus far and sports a post-season ERA of 2.77 and an 8-2 home regular season record. As on both previous nights, the advantage appears to favor the New Yorkers, although this has not actually held true in reality.
Aside from the pitching matchups, the key for the Mets will be to wake up their dormant bats. With the exception of Lucas Duda, who is batting .444 in the series and accounted for both of the hits against Cueto on Wednesday, the rest of the Mets lineup is hitting a paltry .129 average. Batting some 71 points below the dreaded “Mendoza Line” as a team obviously won’t get it done against anyone. Meanwhile, the Mets will seek to sustain their impressive offensive barrage, with a .330 team batting average, nearly 100 points better than any other team this post season, and a shocking 200 points better than the Mets.
The battle resumes on Friday evening at Citi Field, as the Mets attempt to repair the confidence and momentum which ended with such a thud in KC on Wednesday, and get back into the chase for the Series win. The Royals will seek to keep the Mets bats on ice while they continue their long-inning “station to station” approach, with singles and doubles strung together to advance runners and score runs, and which could well be described as a baseball version of “death by a thousand paper cuts”. The Mets must rediscover the prodigious attack which rained destruction and desperation on the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, and unleash it on the Royals.
Both teams know full well the historical importance which history teaches about game three. While teams will occasionally recover after going down 2-0, or choke after being up 2-0, depending on one’s perspective, no team has ever gone down by a 3-0 margin and lived to tell about it. These two historical lessons are what make the stakes in Friday’s game three so incredibly high.