<
>

Storylines favor Mets-Jays over Mets-Royals, but is that best matchup?

CHICAGO -- Amid the champagne-laced celebration, David Wright was reveling in the New York Mets winning the pennant, not yet looking ahead to their American League opponent.

"Let me tell you something: We're going to the World Series. We'll worry about who we're playing whenever that's figured out," Wright said. "But I like our chances with our pitching."

The Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays play Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night at 8:07 p.m. ET. The host Royals lead the series, 3-2.

Certainly the storylines favor the Mets facing the Blue Jays.

It potentially would match up R.A. Dickey against a battery of Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud. Those were the principals traded for one another in December 2012.

It also could lead to a pitching matchup of Steven Matz against Marcus Stroman that would send Newsday into a tizzy. Those Long Islanders faced off in high school on April 16, 2009. Matz's Ward Melville squad defeated Stroman's Patchogue-Medford team, 1-0. The duo combined for 26 strikeouts.

It also would mean Blue Jays manager John Gibbons facing the organization in which he grew up. Gibbons, 53, was the Mets' first-round pick (24th overall) in 1980. All 57 of his major league plate appearances came with the Mets. He played eight minor league seasons with the organization, including at Triple-A Tidewater from 1984 through '87. Meanwhile, Mets executive J.P. Ricciardi is the former Blue Jays general manager.

Ex-Met LaTroy Hawkins is part of Toronto's bullpen as well after coming along with Troy Tulowitzki in the July 28 trade with the Colorado Rockies.

The Blue Jays' big bats -- highlighted by Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Tulowitzki -- could make for a fascinating matchup against the Mets' flame-throwing young starting pitching. And David Price and Stroman are two big arms that could challenge the Mets' bats.

The Mets and Jays split four games in mid-June.

The storylines are not quite as robust with Kansas City, unless you're sentimental about former Mets beat writer Andy McCullough now covering the Royals for the Kansas City Star.

The Mets and Royals have played nine times in their history -- three-games series in 2002, '04 and '13.

The Mets' lone visit to Kauffman Stadium came 11 years ago. That was the series when Carlos Beltran was on the trading block with the Royals. Mets center fielder Mike Cameron suggested he would gladly shift to a corner outfield spot if the Mets were to acquire Beltran. Beltran went to the Houston Astros shortly thereafter but did sign with the Mets that offseason, pushing an unhappy Cameron to right field.

During that same series, then-manager Art Howe tossed over a garbage can in frustration in the visitors clubhouse after a 4-3 loss on June 12, 2004. The Mets had tied the score in the top of the ninth on Todd Zeile's RBI double, but Angel Berroa had a walk-off RBI single against David Weathers in the bottom of the inning as the Mets dropped to 28-33.

The lone ex-Met on the Royals is right-hander Chris Young (unless you want to count former farmhand Drew Butera, the backup catcher).

Whereas Toronto had an AL-best 232 homers during the regular season, Kansas City ranked 14th in the 15-team league with 139. But their offense seems relentless.

The Royals matched Toronto for second in the AL in batting average at .269 and also ranked second in steals with 104. The Royals, who do not have a left-hander in their postseason rotation, had a 3.73 ERA during the regular season, which ranked third in the AL. Beware the bullpen. It had a league-best 2.72 ERA.

In an interesting twist, Opening Day next season features the Mets playing in Kansas City. If the teams meet in the World Series, will the Royals be raising an AL pennant or World Series championship banner on April 4, 2016?

"I think the Mets match up better against the Blue Jays," an NL scout said. "Power arms would expose the Jays' power bats. I think the Royals' lineup presents more challenges for the Mets. I also think the Royals' experience of being there last year works to their benefit -- not gonna be overwhelmed by the big stage."