Ross Kelly, CBS Local Sports
And with the Josh Donaldson groundout to Mike Moustakas to end Game 6 of the ALCS, we are all set for the 2015 World Series: the AL Champion Kansas City Royals (95-67) will take on the NL-winning New York Mets (90-72). The Royals are returning to the World Series after falling in seven games to the Giants last year and will be seeking their second championship in franchise history (1985). The Mets are making their first appearance since the 2000 season and will be looking for their third ring (1969, 1986).
Here is the broadcast schedule, with all games airing on FOX:
Game 1 (@KC) – Tuesday, October 27 – 8:07 (ET)
Game 2 (@KC) – Wednesday, October 28 – 8:07 (ET)
Game 3 (@NY) – Friday, October 30 – 8:07 (ET)
Game 4 (@NY) – Saturday, October 31 – 8:07 (ET)
Game 5* (@NY) – Sunday, November 1 – 8:15 (ET)
Game 6* (@KC) – Tuesday, November 3 – 8:07 (ET)
Game 7* (@KC) – Wednesday, November 4 – 8:07 (ET)
•Game 1: Johnny Cueto vs. Matt Harvey – Terry Collins hasn’t committed, as least publicly, to Harvey starting Game 1 but it appears that the team wants to give deGrom an extra day of rest. That would put Harvey in line to start the opener and possibly make two more appearances if the series were to go 7 (so much for that innings limit). The Dark Knight’s likely foe on the mound will be the the ultimate Jekyll & Hyde pitcher, Johnny Cueto, who has been all over the map since being traded to KC. In the winner-takes-all Game 5 of the ALDS he gave up just two earned over eight innings but in Game 3 of the ALCS those numbers flipped as he allowed eight earned in just two innings. Who knows what to expect come Game 1?
•Game 2: Edinson Volquez vs. Jacob deGrom – deGrom faded in the second half of the season as his ERA was exactly one run higher after the All-Star break than before it; but he’s rebounded in the postseason with a 1.80 ERA over 20 innings. He will be operating on seven days of rest come Game 2 and should be firing on all cylinders. Volquez isn’t the flamethrower he was back in his Cincinnati days but he’s a reliable veteran who has a lot of experience vs. these Mets. The current Mets batters have combined for 126 at-bats against Volquez and have a solid .270 average but Volquez hasn’t given up a single home run to any of those batters.
•Game 3: Yordano Ventura vs. Noah Syndergaard – While there is still question if Harvey or deGrom will get the opening start, there is no question that the Mets want Syndergaard to take the mound at Citi Field. His ERA was 2.46 at home this season compared to 4.23 on the road. The only question is, if the series reaches seven games, will Collins have faith in Syndergaard to trot him out on the road with everything on the line? On the other side, the 24-year-old Ventura will be the elder statesman in this pitching matchup and he’s coming off a stellar 5.1 IP in the Royals’ ALCS clincher. Ventura is known as a bit of a hothead so if you’re expecting to see something ‘high and tight’, it will likely come from Ventura.
•Game 4: Chris Young vs. Steven Matz – The native New Yorker will get the call in Game 4 but Collins will have his bullpen arms getting loose early. Matz has gone past six innings only once this season and vets Bartolo Colon and Jonathan Niese will be available for long relief. Chris Young, who’s a dozen years older than Matz, should get the call over Kris Medlen for the Royals. Young spent two injury-plagued years with the Mets and may retire at season’s end. He’ll want to go out on a high note but can’t be expected to give the team more than 4-5 innings.
Slumping players to watch:
Salvador Perez – Perez has been an absolute horse over the past two seasons for the Royals. Counting the playoffs, no catcher in MLB history has caught more innings than Perez over the last two seasons and all of that time behind the plate may be catching up with him. Despite four long balls in the postseason, Perez is hitting just .194 in the playoffs and it seems like every other foul ball hit by an opponent finds a way to connect with Perez. Fortunately for him, the Mets are not a running team so he shouldn’t have to do too much in controlling the basepaths but the Royals will certainly need his bat to heat up as they’ll be losing one of their steadiest run-producers in DH Kendrys Morales once the series shifts to Queens.
Michael Conforto – Conforto has been platooning with Juan Lagares throughout the postseason and has seen most of his work against right-handed pitchers. But after a strong .872 OPS vs. righties during the regular season, the Oregon State rookie is just 1-15 in the postseason. With the Royals featuring a righty-heavy rotation, Conforto will be called upon often while Lagares is relegated to a defensive replacement role. But unless he can get out of his funk, Terry Collins may have a quick hook with Conforto and could opt for Kelly Johnson, Michael Cuddyer, or Kirk Nieuwenhuis, all of whom would be downgrades defensively. Is Conforto succumbing to the pressure of October baseball? We’ll find out soon because the spotlight will only intensify in the World Series.
A true contrast of styles:
These two offenses couldn’t be more different and their styles would have you believe they’re playing in the wrong leagues. The contact-hitting, base-stealing Royals (2nd in SBs, 14th in HRs) have a style more suited to the National League while the slugging Mets (3rd in HRs, 15th in SBs) play more like an American League team. They both made big trade-deadline moves with the Mets adding Yeonis Cespedes and the Royals adding Ben Zobrist and those players seemingly re-ignited stagnant offenses and provided additional flexibility in their teams’ lineups. The Royals do have a big advantage in World Series experience among their batters as they were just here a year ago and eight of their regulars have played in a World Series while only Curtis Granderson has World Series experience among the Mets regulars.
On the mound, both teams are effective but in different ways. The Mets starting rotation is arguably the best in the game and their performances will be the biggest factors in the outcome of the series. All of the superlatives that you give out to the Mets rotation can also be given out to the Royals bullpen even with the loss of closer Greg Holland. They are deep, versatile, and have tons of big-game experience. But it’s incumbent on the Royals’ starters to go deep enough to get to that vaunted bullpen and that has been a problem at times this season. With all of the innings that the Mets’ starters can eat up, they’re hoping their suspect bullpen isn’t much of a factor. But any manager would take a strong rotation over a strong bullpen so the overall pitching edge has to go to the Mets.