Fearsome Foursome: Mets’ young aces take on Royals in Series
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Anyone arriving a little early to a New York Mets game this season has probably witnessed ”The Walk.”
Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom or another emerging ace striding in from the bullpen following pregame warmups, with pitching coach Dan Warthen right alongside – and the rest of that fearless rotation trailing just behind.
For opposing hitters, it’s become an imposing march to impending doom.
”We have a lot of weapons,” Harvey said Monday.
Riding four young starters all the way through October, the hard-throwing Mets are ready to fire their best stuff at the Kansas City Royals in the 111th World Series.
Game 1 is Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium, with Harvey set to face Edinson Volquez.
”I don’t think any of us have really sat back and kind of realized what we can accomplish as a group,” Harvey said. ”Right now, it’s about our team and about winning.”
Kansas City came excruciatingly close to winning it all last year, losing Game 7 at home to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants with the potential tying run 90 feet from home plate.
”That’s pretty hard to swallow. That’s going to stay with you for a while,” Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas said. ”I think the only way to get rid of that feeling is to go out this year and finish the deal.”
With cohesion and camaraderie in mind, deGrom said New York’s starters began watching each other warm up during spring training, when they all needed to be out on the field for the national anthem anyway.
It’s not an entirely unique practice – veteran teammate Kelly Johnson recalled St. Louis and Tampa Bay pitchers doing the same thing. But by the time rookies Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz were called up from the minors, it was a signature part of the Mets’ routine.
”It’s just a great feeling to go out there and know that the other starting pitchers are out there supporting you as well,” Syndergaard said. ”It’s kind of like we have almost our own little unit to support each other and push each other to be better.”
As catcher Travis d’Arnaud put it: ”It just shows that they have each other’s back no matter what. They’re always there for each other, good or bad.”
There’s been much more good than bad for New York’s fantastic four under the pressure of their first postseason. Showing savvy, poise and grit that bely their limited experience, they’ve already pitched the Mets to their first National League pennant in 15 years.
Now, they want the ultimate prize.
”We all have a mission to win this last series,” said Matz, the Long Island lefty living out every boy’s wildest dreams after growing up a Mets fan about 50 miles from Citi Field.
”There’s still work to do,” deGrom echoed.
Last season’s NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom goes in Game 2 against enigmatic Royals newcomer Johnny Cueto. After winning 14 games this season, deGrom went 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three playoff outings.
When the series shifts back home to Citi Field, the Mets will turn to Syndergaard and Matz in that order – making them the first team since the 1997 Marlins (Livan Hernandez and Tony Saunders) to start two rookie pitchers in the World Series, according to STATS.
”I think we’re all pretty mature when it comes to going out there and stepping on the mound,” Syndergaard said.
The quartet has combined for only 147 career regular-season starts, by far the fewest for a World Series foursome, STATS said.
Three of them already had Tommy John surgery, yet the Mets were the hardest-throwing staff in the majors this year.
”You’re talking about a handful of guys that not only succeeded in matching the expectations that New York had for them, which is difficult in itself, but surpassing them – all at the same time,” captain David Wright said.
Underneath the long locks and catchy, comic-book nicknames like Thor (Syndergaard), The Dark Knight (Harvey) and The deGrominator, these precocious Mets pitchers have winning stuff in spades.
New York’s starters serve up much more than 95-100 mph fastballs, too. All of them have rapidly honed polished off-speed pitches and fine-tuned their ability to locate them precisely.
”These guys are going to be really good. And this experience is going to make them that much better,” Mets manager Terry Collins said recently. ”They’re not just throwers, they’re legitimate guys.”
And now, those prized, electric arms New York rebuilt around have arrived on baseball’s biggest stage. They’ll take on a determined and experienced Royals team that thrives on making consistent contact at the plate.
”There’s only two teams left,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. ”The whole world is watching.”