David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
Late Wednesday night, in the wake of the Mets' Game 2 loss at Kauffman Stadium, we spent an hour or so pingponging between Terry Collins, a few players and some members of the coaching staff.
Cornering Kevin Long in a clubhouse hallway. Chasing down Dan Warthen just outside the manager's office. There had to be a satisfactory explanation why the Mets, the same team that bulldozed the Cubs in four straight, had been stripped of that armor in losing the first two games of the World Series.
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Game 1, a 14-inning tug-of-war, essentially was a toss-up, a battle of wills between Bartolo Colon and Chris Young decided, in part, by David Wright's critical throwing error. In Game 2, Jacob deGrom got the Royal treatment, dinged and dented until he left, head bowed, on the losing end of the eventual 7-1 rout.
We wanted reasons for Daniel Murphy's unthinkable two-game homerless drought, Yoenis Cespedes' vanishing act and deGrom's pitches carving too much plate. Even more, we insisted on solutions, probably just as you do watching at home.
But this isn't July, and Sandy Alderson can't just dial up another GM for reinforcements. The Mets, as they stand right now, down 0-2 and facing steep odds of coming back to win this World Series, know what's in front of them.
The NL champs are either good enough to deny a confident, determined Royalsteam that is on a mission to finish the job they couldn't a year ago, or they aren't.
The 1986 Mets earned their living legend cards by roaring back from 0-2 after two home games to foil the Red Sox, with an assist from the gimpy Bill Buckner. The '96 Yankees also lost the first two games at home, yet rallied to beat a heavily favored Braves team with its Smoltz-Maddux-Glavine rotation.
Can the Mets do the highly improbable? They'll get at least two shots at it at Citi Field, a welcome change of venue. But after the first two games, the Royals just look better -- outpitching, outhitting and outrunning the Mets. While it's true that the series is one Jeurys Familia flat sinker away from being tied, the truth is the Mets are two losses from a long winter of what-might-have-been. To get back in the Series, shifting that momentum has to begin Friday night.
"I don't feel like we're too far off," Long said, "and I still don't. They're tough. That's why they're in the World Series."
The Dodgers are a flawed $300-million team that had zero intimidation factor on nights when Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke didn't take the mound. The Cubs bullied their way to the NLCS with young, powerful sluggers but melted like butter as soon as the Mets brought the heat.
The Royals are a different animal. With their uncanny ability to put bat on ball, they've neutralized the Mets rotation's greatest strength -- the strikeout -- and in doing so, wounded their pride to some degree. That's not to say Noah Syndergaard can't restore it in Game 3. And with his 100-mph fastball setting up the nasty change/curve combo, we'll see just how skilled the K.C. hitters are with a bat.
"I like our game plan," Warthen said. "We just have to execute good pitches."
A few runs would help, too. Internally, the Mets admit they allowed themselves to get dragged out of their patient approach during the extra innings of Game 1, when they made Young -- who barely nicks 90 on the radar gun -- look like Roger Clemens.
And getting two-hit by Johnny Cueto in Game 2? He can be dominant on a given night with his funky, disruptive delivery. But the Mets beat Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta to reach the Fall Classic. Surely they can solve Yordano Ventura and Young the next two nights at Citi Field.
If not, they will become a footnote in World Series history rather than part of New York baseball folklore.
"That's what got us here -- treating every game like an elimination game," David Wright said. "Now is no different."
Sounds simple. But the Mets need to remember that. Starting Friday night.