Last night was a happy one for Mets fans, as our team showed that it wasn't going to lay down and get swept into oblivion by those scrappy Royals. Noah Syndergaard sent a message with his first pitch that New York isn't to be messed with, and the rest of the team followed suit by hitting a pair of two-run homers off of Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura.
It was great to see a Mets offense that had been dormant since midway through Game 1 put up three crooked numbers, but can they keep the train rolling against Chris Young? The former Met has had his career derailed by injury on multiple occasions, but over the past few years, he has proved that when he's healthy enough to pitch, he can do so effectively.
The right-hander's secret appears to be an extremely low ground ball rate (26 percent for his career), which leads to a naturally low BABIP (.247), which in turn allows Young to get a lot of outs without many strikeouts. Plus, since the 36-year-old has worked in pitcher's parks for nearly his entire career (Petco Park, Citi Field, Safeco, and now Kauffman Stadium), his home run per fly ball rate has been consistently adequate.
This season, Young started pitching out of the bullpen for Kansas City before joining the rotation from the middle of May until the end of July. For the final two months of the campaign, he was a relief pitcher again until being stretched out for the postseason at the end of September. After finishing the regular season with a 3.06 ERA and 4.52 FIP, two of Young's three postseason outings have been in relief, so he only has three starts under his belt since July ended.
All of those starts have been pretty successful, but what Mets fans are really concerned with is how good Young looked out of the bullpen during Game 1, when he shut the New York lineup down for three innings and allowed the Royals every opportunity they needed to win the game.
The four strikeouts Young had that night were atypical, as he only averaged six per nine innings for the year. However, if opponents swing away at the high fastball, Young has the potential to miss more bats when he goes to the changeup. A key for the Mets in Game 4 will be to be patient with Young and allow his strikeout and walk rates to reveal themselves. That high FIP may be a fluke because of how well he controls his BABIP, but Young can still be beaten when hitters wait for their pitch instead of popping up the first one they see.
It would also help if the Mets show the type of power tonight that they put on display in Game 3, when both Curtis Granderson and David Wright went deep. It turns out that maybe we can rely on this Wright guy, who seems to reassert himself as Captain Clutch every time fans begin to doubt him. After delivering a monster two-RBI single in Game 1 of the NLDS, Wright went into a slump before coming up huge and reaching base four times in NLCS Game 3. Two quiet games against Kansas City later, and the man is back with what ought to be one of the biggest hits of his career.
It's safe to say that Terry Collins won't be making any adjustments to his lineup heading into another pivotal matchup. The Mets are still in desperate need of a victory, so sticking with what worked last night sounds like a good plan.
Instead, it will be the Royals who will need to adjust to the Mets for once. With Steven Matz taking the mound for New York, Ned Yost's squad will be up against a left-handed pitcher for the first time in a while. That might not call for a lineup upheaval, but there are certain players whose performances might alter based on the handedness of the opposing hurler.
Left-handed hitters Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon have been just as good against southpaws this year as right-handed pitchers, but Eric Hosmer is a different story, hitting just .279/.332/.398 versus lefties. That's something that Matz might be able to take advantage of, given that Hosmer is smack dab in the middle of the lineup. Hosmer's slight weakness is especially important because the batter in front of him, Lorenzo Cain, crushes lefties with a .959 OPS.
While the platoon split makes Cain especially dangerous tonight, another right-hander in Kansas City's lineup will be at a disadvantage. That is Salvador Perez, the catcher who has picked up at least one hit in each game of the World Series so far. As a top-notch defensive player who doesn't walk at all when he's at the plate, Perez epitomizes the Royals as a team. Unlike most of their hitters, however, he's almost useless against left-handed pitching. Perez's splits are especially drastic this year, as he has a .775 OPS versus right-handers and a .560 OPS vs. southpaws.
In a nutshell, Matz has to be especially careful with Cain tonight, but he can't take it easy on the left-handed Royals. None of that might matter for long, though, because Matz has gotten a quick hook in his previous two postseason starts. That doesn't mean he has pitched poorly, just that Collins isn't going to trust the rookie to pitch through trouble like he does with his other stallions. Since hurling seven-and-two-thirds innings in his big league debut on June 28, Matz has only twice finished the sixth inning of a start.
Prediction: A second slice of pizza!