Sunday, April 3, 2016

Mets Set For Royal Rematch

The Mets are back in Kansas City for the first time since Game 2 of the World Series last October. The last time these two teams met it was Game 5 of the World Series with the Royals erasing a 2-0 deficit to comeback and stun the Mets in extras 7-2, taking the Fall Classic in five games. The series was best know for Kansas City's uncanny ability to be clutch at the most opportune of times, while the Mets were exposed and beset by terrible mistakes in the field.

Make no mistake these two teams respect one another, but aren't exactly fans of one another. Two of the games were decided by two runs or less, and Game 5 had extra innings. There was even an incident involving Noah Syndergaard going high and tight to Alcides Escobar in Game 3 that resulted in Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas screaming at Syndergaard from the Royals dugout. Many expect KC to seek revenge this week, although when a team raises a World Series banner and distributes rings, I don't find it hard to believe that plunking someone is better retaliation than that.

Lets look at the match-up.

Pitching Match-ups:
Game 1, Sunday night: Matt Harvey vs. Edison Volquez
Game 2, Tuesday afternoon: Noah Syndergaard vs. Chris Young.

Sunday night's match-up is a rematch of Games 1 and 5 with Harvey matching wits with Volquez. Both games were classics last year with the Mets holding late inning leads, and in both cases blowing those leads. In Game 1, the Royals came-back from a 4-3 deficit when Alex Gordon homered off Jeurys Familia. The Royals won in extras 5-4. Game 5 we talked about above. In both games Harvey out-pitched Volquez, but the veteran did more than enough to keep the Royals in the contest. Should be interesting to see how amped up both starters are for this one. For Harvey it is his first Opening Day start, and first game since that Game 5 meltdown. For Volquez he has a chance to get things off on the right foot for the champs.

Tuesday's game will feature the Game 3 starter for the Mets (Noah Syndergaard) against Royals newcomer Ian Kennedy. This will be a fascinating match-up. Kennedy is not exactly one of the games top starters. The Royals are taking a flyer hoping he can become something with the Royals stout bullpen and lineup backing him up. Syndergaard is looking to back-up his dominant effort against KC in Game 3 last Fall with a big effort on the road. This is a big year for Syndergaard, who many expect to come into his own this year.

Starting Pitching: Edge METS.

Key Battles: 
1st Base: Lucas Duda vs. Eric Hosmer: Edge ROYALS. Hosmer is as clutch as they come. He belted 18 homers and drove in 93 last year during the regular season. While his batting average in the playoffs was low, he still found ways to get big hits in big spots like he did against the Mets in the World Series. As for Duda, he's always good for some power, but is way too inconsistent.

3rd Base: David Wright vs. Mike Moustakas: Edge ROYALS. This is the first game of a telling year for Wright. He needs to show that his back troubles are truly behind him, with a solid start to the 2016 campaign. While nobody expects the David Wright of 10 years ago, if the Mets get 130 games out of him this year they will take it. As for Moustakas, he really came into his own last year. Belting 22 homers, driving in 82 and hitting .284, Moustakas had his best year. He is a powerful left-handed bat in the middle of the line-up for KC, and has become an very difficult out.

Catcher: Travis d'Arnaud vs. Salvador Perez: Edge ROYALS. The Royals have the edge going into this series at catcher for the simple fact that Perez is coming off the World Series MVP, and is a guy who just hits all the time. In the last three years, Perez averaged 140 hits a season, which is tremendous for someone who catches almost everyday. The Royals really should think about giving him more days off to rest him for later in the year, but his presence in this series will be apparent.

As for d'Arnaud, we need to see more than 67 games caught during the regular season. Health has always been a concern with him, and when he does play, d'Arnaud doesn't always wow with the arm strength. He does have some pop in the bat, and could be good for a big hit at some point in this two game set vs. Kansas City.

Left Field: Yoenis Cespedes vs. Alex Gordon: Edge METS: Yes, I know Gordon had a better Fall Classic than Cespedes did, but if you ask me, I'll take Cespedes everyday of the week and twice on Sunday over the aging Gordon. Cespedes has a chance this weekend to let the Royals have it after he had a lackluster World Series against them. This is not a guy the Royals should fool around with.

Closer: Jeurys Familia vs. Wade Davis. slight edge: ROYALS:  Davis gets a lot of credit as the games top closer today, and it is with good reason, the guy has microscopic ERAs the past two years. Last October, Davis had a 0.00 ERA with four saves in four chances. He is an absolute stud, but so is Familia for the Mets. While the nation didn't see it in the World Series, Familia is a big time closer. He nailed down 43 games last year, and has the stuff to be a dominant closer in this league for years to come.

Intangibles: It's Opening Day, both of these teams are going to be ready to rock and roll tomorrow night. The Royals are raising their World Series banner at home which is added incentive for them to clobber the Mets. But, for the Mets this is a chance for some revenge. They are basically going into this game a heavy underdog, expected to roll over to the World Champs. They also will have World Series highlights shoved in their face throughout the pregame. That in of itself will be enough to jack them up even more. Edge: METS.

Prediction: Mets and Royals split the two games in Kanas City. 

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