The Kansas City Royals are back in the World Series after losing a classic last year that went the full seven games to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants.
The Royals had the best record in the American League t 95-67, and rolled to the Central Division title, which they won by 12 games over Minnesota. In the playoffs, they beat the Wild Card Houston Astros in five games in the Division Series and, then the American League East champion Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS in six games to get back to the World Series against the Mets.
Royals Manager Ned Yost said on Monday of what is different about his team this year compared to last, “You know, they have a lot of confidence. They’ve got a lot of determination. They’ve had determination from day one of Spring Training. I think this time last year we were really excited to be here. I don’t think we really expected to be here, but we were excited to be here.
“This year we expected to be here. This group of guys has gone out and accomplished everything they’ve set their mind to this year. And they wanted to win the Division, they did that; they wanted to win home-field advantage, they did that; they wanted to get back to the World Series, they’ve done that.
“And of course, we had a large contingency of Royals in the All-Star Game. They wanted to get home-field advantage for the World Series, they’ve done that. They’ve accomplished everything that they’ve set their minds to up to this point, and we’ve got one big series left,” said Yost.
Yost said of the Mets being in the spot they were last year, a young team new to the playoffs and if the Royals have the edge in experience, “I don’t really see it as an advantage. We didn’t have any playoff experience last year, and we took it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series.
“It’s about execution. These guys have got a tremendous team. They’ve got tremendous pitching. They’re going to go out and play their game. It’s the World Series, but when you’re here, it’s a very rapid pace, but it’s fun. There’s only two teams left. The whole world is watching.
“I don’t see having a huge experience advantage over those guys, because it’s the World Series, anything can happen. You just go out and play,” said Yost.
The Mets’ strength is their strong rotation, and they will be going with Matt Harvey in Game 1, followed by Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz.
Yost announced on Monday at he will be going with Edinson Volquez in Game 1, followed by Johnny Cueto, Jordany Ventura, and ex-Met Chris Young.
Yost said of his reasoning for going with this rotation, “Well, Ventura — we’ve go so many Vs in the lineup– Volquez lined up perfectly for the first spot for us. If we brought Ventura back for Game 1 he would have been a day early. We didn’t want that. We wanted Johnny Cueto in Game 2, because Johnny really feeds off the home crowd. And we’re able to have Johnny in Game 2 and Game 6 here at home, where we think that that gives us a bit of advantage having Johnny pitching at home in front of our home crowd. They really, really give him a lot of energy. He’s pitched his best games here.
“And then Ventura in Game 3. We really like Chris Young in Game 4. He’s a guy that it doesn’t matter, there’s nothing that’s going to distract him. There’s nothing that’s going to slow him down. He’s had a great year for us, he’s been a great addition for us. We like the way it sets up with Volquez, Cueto, Ventura, and Chris Young,” said Yost.
Volquez said of starting Game 1, “For me it’s a great honor to pitch in this game, especially pitching at home. It’s a great feeling.”
On his preparation being different than usual, Volquez said, “It’s another game. I don’t have to do anything different than what I’ve been doing. I’ve got to stay focused in what you’re doing, especially this game, because this is a World Series game. You don’t have too many chance to make a lot of mistakes in those games. So I’ve got to stay under control and pitch your game.”
Volquez spent some time in the National League with the Reds, Padres, Dodgers, and Pirates. On what he thinks about the progression of the Mets to get here and what sort of challenge are they as a whole, Volquez said, “They’re good. They’ve been waiting many years to have that team, and they’re pretty good right now. They’ve got a lot of young talent over there. They’re unbelievable. They’ve got good arms, Harvey and Syndergaard, they throw hard.”
It’s a great organization. It’s a great team, too.
The star of the postseason has been the Mets’ Daniel Murphy, who has seven home runs and 11 RBI with a .421 batting average (16-for-38) in their nine postseason games.
After the National League Championship Series, Cubs Manager Joe Maddon said Murphy is hitting like Barry Bonds. Yost said of preparing for an offensive force like this, “He’s been very, very hot. We talked about in our advance meeting today how he stands on top of the plate like Barry Bonds did. So when you’re on that kind of run like he is, he’s very hot. He’s seeing the ball well. You better execute pitches, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Volquez said of Murphy, “He’s been really good. He’s a great hitter. He’s been a great hitter his entire career. We have to make an adjustment with him. We cannot let him beat us. We’ll see what the plan is for him. I haven’t talked to the pitching coach yet, but I have to stick with the plan.”
The Mets have a lot of left-handed power, with Murphy, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, and Michael Conforto providing some pop. On if he sees lefty relievers like Franklin Morales and Danny Duffy playing a bigger role in the series, Yost said, “Yeah, you could. The teams that we played against, Houston and Toronto weren’t really left-handed matchup type of teams for us. But we do have more matchup possibilities here. Morales and Danny definitely could play a bigger role in this series.”
Last season, the Royals played the Giants in the regular season, whereas they have not faced the Mets for a couple years in the regular season. Yost said of preparing for the Mets without facing them, “We don’t worry about that. They’ve got great advance scouts that have given us a ton of information. The videos that we can look at helps us some. You still have to go out and — I mean, it’s hard to find a comparison to a DeGrom or a Syndergaard or even a Matz or a Harvey. Those guys are exceptional pitchers. You’ve got to go out and see them.
“For the most part they attack the zone, which, you know, we attack the zone offensively. We understand what they’re about defensively. They’re a very solid defensive unit. We know all about their pen. So not having seen them doesn’t bother us. We feel like we’re prepared and ready to go,” said Yost.