Eleven teams have rallied after losing the first two games to win the World Series, but it hasn’t been done for 19 years.
After Wednesday’s 7-1 Royals victory, the 2015 Mets don’t seem likely to make it a dozen.
The 1986 Mets were one of the 11 (complete list below, if you want to try to name the other 10), but those Mets had a better lineup and, arguably, better pitching. Their long reliever was Sid Fernandez, who may not have weighed as much as Bartolo Colon at age 42, but had a better and heavier fastball.
And this year’s Mets opponent has a better manager than the 86 Mets’, no matter how stubborn Ned Yost is about batting Alcides Escobar and his career .298 on-base percentage leadoff.
(Escobar is 20-for-55 this postseason, a .363 average, which makes up for his predictably zero walks. He’s been hit by pitches three times.)
The Royals have fielded better — you don’t see their outfielders converging on fly balls as if they were drivers at a four-way stop sign, each stubbornly deferring — and run the bases quicker. It might be simpler to walk, but maybe David Wright doesn’t err on his throw to first in the 14th inning of Game 1 if someone slower than Escobar is running.
The Royals have outhomered the Mets, 2-1, though one of the two shouldn’t count. Fox’s telecast isn’t the only group to have lost power.
And the Royals have been better than the Mets even at what the Mets do best: starting pitching. Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez have pitched 15 innings and allowed eight hits and four runs; Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom have pitched 11 innings and allowed 11 hits and seven runs (for all the hullabaloo about the Royals making contact, which they are, the Royals starters have fanned just seven Mets, or less than one every two innings).
Home field isn’t likely to change those dynamics, unless the Mets ground crew neglected to put a tarp down on Citi Field this week.
If there’s a Game 5, it will be played on Sunday, the first of November. It’s a long season, and maybe it’s beginning to tell on the Mets’ young starters. Jacob deGrom, who threw four shutout innings and then faltered in the fifth after a leadoff walk, has pitched 216 innings in 2015, 69 more than any previous season. The Mets gave deGrom an extra day’s rest before Wednesday, but after nearly seven months, what good does 24 hours do?
Matt Harvey, who was supposed to be limited to 180 innings in 2015, surpassed that in September. He’s at 208, 30 more than he’s ever pitched. Game 3 starter Noah Syndergaard is at 192.2, or 59.2 more than his previous high; only Game 4 starter Steve Matz, who missed large parts of the season to injury, hasn’t hit his career high).
Contrast that with Cueto, the dreadlocked rollercoaster as the Kansas City Star’s Andy McCullough called him, who pitched 237 innings this year, or 6.2 less than last year’s regular season. Cueto has thrown at least 200 innings in each of the last three seasons, and it showed Wednesday. The rollercoaster crested.
It’s an old baseball truism not to depend on a starting pitcher who hasn’t thrown 200 innings, though in 2015 it’s much harder to get there (Chris Young, the Royals’ Game 4 starter has pitched for 11 seasons and even been an All-Star in one, but never made 200).
As the season approaches its eighth month, it’s not as if the Mets have any choice.
The 11 teams that have rallied to win the World Series after losing the first two games: 1996 Yankees (vs. Braves); 1986 Mets (vs. Red Sox); 1985 Royals (vs. Cardinals); 1981 Dodgers (vs. Yankees); 1978 Yankees (vs. Dodgers); 1971 Pirates (vs. Orioles); 1965 Dodgers (vs. Twins); 1958 Yankees (vs. Braves); 1956 Yankees (vs. Dodgers); 1955 Dodgers (vs. Yankees); 1921 Giants (vs. Yankees). The 1921 Series was best-of-nine. Note that the ’96 Yankees, ’86 Mets and ’85 Royals all lost the first two games at home.