NEW YORK -- Some things we learned: Noah Syndergaard has a very good fastball -- and announced his presence with authority by throwing one up, in and over Alcides Escobar to start the game, subsequently owning the purpose behind that pitch, which we're sure to hear more about on Saturday. And we learned Royals pitchers may need a day of fielding practice. And David Wright gave Mets fans a memorable night. The World Series will not be a sweep as the Mets beat the Royals 9-3.
1. David Wright homers and drives in four. Wright made his debut for the Mets on July 21, 2004, against a team that no longer exists. Ty Wigginton played first base for the Mets that day. Cliff Floyd hit cleanup. Wright batted seventh and went 0-for-4, but the Mets beat the Expos 5-3. He'd get two hits the next game, and hit his first home run on July 26 off John Patterson of the Expos, in a game the Mets would lose 19-10.
Wright reached the postseason with the Mets in 2006, but it has been a long haul since then. The Mets collapsed down the stretch in 2007 and then missed the playoffs again the following season with another blown division lead in September. Then came losing seasons and that year he didn't hit for power, and then some injuries. Wright missed most of 2015 because of a back injury, somehow got healthy again, and after 1,546 games in the regular season, finally appeared in a World Series.
And in his first at-bat in front of the home crowd in a World Series game, he sent an 0-1, 96 mph fastball from Yordano Ventura over the wall in left-center for a two-run home run. Don't you love the way baseball works sometimes?
It was a great moment for Wright, who has played the second-most games in Mets history, a great moment for the fans, and an important moment for the 2015 moments. After the Royals scraped across a run in the top of the first with the help of a little infield trickler -- here we go again -- Wright's blast erased the lead and set the tone for an offense that would attack Ventura in his short stint.
To add to his night, Wright would break the game open with a two-run single in the sixth to give the Mets an 8-3 lead.
One game at a time... Let's go @Mets !!— Dwight Gooden (@DocGooden16) October 31, 2015
David Wright's HR was off a 95.6 MPH fastball... He hasn't hit a HR off a pitch that hard since 2013.— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 31, 2015
2. Curtis Granderson homers. Did anyone have a quieter excellent season than the Grandy Man? Granderson ranked 13th among NL position players in WAR, sixth in runs and ninth in Win Probability Added, suggesting his production also came in big moments in close games. After Syndergaard led off the third with a single to right field -- he did hit .209 in the regular season, so he's not an automatic out -- Granderson got ahead of Ventura 2-0, took a fastball and then hooked a 94 mph pitch down the right-field line into the first row of seats to give the Mets a 4-3 lead. The pitch from Ventura was pretty much down the middle, maybe slightly to the outer half of the strike zone.
As Mark Simon points out, 19 of Granderson's 28 home runs in the regular season and postseason have come on pitches in the outer half of the strike zone. Keep in mind that Mets hitting coach Kevin Long worked with Granderson when both were with the Yankees, getting him to hook the ball to right field with that short porch, something Granderson excelled at, twice topping 40 home runs.
It was rough night for Ventura, who looked to almost be in tears when Ned Yost came out to get him in the fourth inning after the Mets added another run. He averaged only 94 mph on his fastball, the lowest reading in any start in his career, and didn't top 96 after the first batter of the game. Remember, he had the third-highest fastball velocity of starters in the majors with at least 150 innings and had averaged 95.9 and 97 in his two ALCS starts.
The Mets went 5-for-8 with two home runs and a double against his fastball, and in the postseason opponents are now hitting .360 against it with four home runs in 50 at-bats. It hasn't been an effective pitch for him in the postseason, perhaps best signified by throwing Syndergaard an 0-2 curveball instead of simply blowing him away with a high fastball. If this goes to a Game 7, Ventura looks like a big question mark after this outing.
Chris Rock was impressed with Granderson's home run. pic.twitter.com/tLpIilxTJO— Dr Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) October 31, 2015
3. Syndergaard gets Alex Rios. Yes, there can be a big out in a 9-3 game and this was it. With two outs in the sixth, Mike Moustakas reached on an infield single (one thing postseason baseball shows us as we pay more attention is how many infield singles there are). Salvador Perez, who rarely walks, drew a walk. Alex Gordon worked the count to 3-2, fouled off a 98 mph fastball because that's what the Royals do, and then walked on a slider. Bases juiced, two outs, the Mets clinging to that 5-3 lead and this could be one of those moments that decides a game and a World Series.
Syndergaard was at 102 pitches, but Terry Collins was going to ride his horse. No problem there. You're not going to bring in Bartolo Colon, that's for sure. Rios took a slider for a first-pitch strike that might not have been a strike. Syndergaard threw another slider and Rios hit a slow grounder that almost ate up Wilmer Flores, but the young shortstop made the 6-3 play and the Mets escaped.
Should the Mets come back to win this seres, Noah Syndergaard retiring Alex Rios with the bases loaded is the moment it all started.— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) October 31, 2015
Matt Harvey gave up 3 runs in 6 innings. Noah Syndergaard gave up 3 runs in 6 innings. The difference in perception is entirely run support.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) October 31, 2015
I think Rany was talking about the TV broadcast and he's sort of right, but I did think Syndergaard pitched much better than Harvey. For starters, Syndergaard induced 16 swings-and-misses compared to only seven for Harvey. Where Harvey threw his fastball a season-low 38 percent, seemingly worried about challenging the Royals with his heat, Syndergaard threw his fastball on 56 of his 104 pitches. The two runs the Royals scored in the second also came with the help of a broken-bat blooper, a soft liner and a passed ball. He pitched very well.
4. Ned Yost calls upon Franklin Morales. This decision received a lot of criticism on Twitter and rightly so. Morales is the 11th guy on the staff, basically a LOOGY who should never face a right-handed batter in a close game if it can be avoided (righties hit .285/.333/.445 against him in 2015). Bringing in Morales allowed Collins to hit Juan Lagares -- who can hit lefties -- for Michael Conforto; this played right into Collins' hands, since he brings in Lagares as a defensive replacement for Conforto anyway.
Lagares got the inning started with a one-out single and everything fell apart from there: Morales hit Flores, Juan Uribe singled, then Morales got a comebacker that he danced around in circles with instead of finally throwing late to second. It could have been a double play to get out of the inning, but Wright followed with a two-run single for an 8-3 lead.
Bringing in Morales didn't make sense when you consider the Royals' comeback abilities. Why not use Luke Hochevar for a second inning? Or bring in Ryan Madson? If Yost didn't want to use Kris Medlen to save him for long relief if needed in Game 4, then why did he bring in Medlen in the eighth?
While Yost probably wanted to limit his relievers to one inning, this was a game you had to stretch somebody out (he had pinch hit for Duffy in the top of the fifth after Duffy escaped a jam in the fourth). Even then, he hit for Duffy with Raul Mondesi, who was making his major league debut. If you're going to hit there, why would you hit Jarrod Dyson or Paulo Orlando? A shaky night for Yost.
you could wake Uribe up from a year long coma and he'll hit offspeed in the zone. RISP in the world series isn't best time for one— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) October 31, 2015
We just learned that Franklin Morales is like super good at Dance Dance Revolution.— Bret Sayre (@dynastyguru) October 31, 2015
5. History as others pointed out:
1986: Game 1: Mets lose by one
2015: Game 1: Mets lose by one
1986: Game 2: Mets lose by six
2015: Game 2: Mets lose by six
1986: Game 3: Mets win by six
2015: Game 3: Mets win by six
In other words ... we're going seven games!