By Andrew Kahn
The New York Mets are headed to their first World Series since the 2000 Subway Series. They await either the Kansas City Royals, which lost in the Series just last year, or the Toronto Blue Jays, which last went in 1993 and won on Joe Carter’s famous home run.
The Mets swept the Cubs thanks in large part to Daniel Murphy, who had to be one of the more obvious choices in NLCS MVP voting history. In Wednesday’s clincher, he set a playoff record by homering in a sixth straight game. He has seven overall for the series and his victims include Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, and Jake Arrieta. Murphy has been a good hitter since he debuted in 2008, but he’s never been a major power threat. He had just 14 homers this season, a career high. Perhaps the stat that best illustrates how locked in he is at the moment is that he’s had more hits in the playoffs (16) than swings and misses (12). Murphy has also been an asset at second base and on the bases, where he’s often had lapses in his career. In other words, the Mets are getting the good Murph (a really, really good Murph) without any of the bad Murph.
The future for the Cubs
On the exact date the characters visit in Back to the Future II, the Cubs were eliminated from the playoffs. You can add the Cubs winning the World Series to a list that includes hoverboards and flying cars of things the film got wrong about 2015. The Mets dominant young staff kept the potent young Chicago bats in check. The Cubs hit 12 homers in their previous five playoff games but only four against New York. The Mets had a much easier time against Chicago’s starters, who were disappointing in the playoffs. Jake Arrieta carried his second half dominance into the wild card game against Pittsburgh but was subpar in his next two starts, giving up four earned runs in each and failing to get through the sixth. Jon Lester had a 4.50 ERA in his two starts, both losses. Kyle Hendricks had a 5.19 ERA and never got through the fifth, while Jason Hammel last just three innings against the Cardinals (a Cubs win) and only 1.1 on Wednesday, allowing five runs. Cubs fans might not want to hear it right now, but with their stellar bats, they’re another strong pitcher away from improving on their 97-win season.
The Price is right?
The ALCS returns to Kansas City tonight as the Royals try for the second time to eliminate the Blue Jays. Toronto sends David Price to the mound, a reassuring thought for any fan who only watches regular season games. Price, a five-time All Star and 2012 Cy Young winner, has a 5.44 ERA in seven postseason starts. His team has lost all seven games. Price held the Jays scoreless in Game 2 through six innings before collapsing in the seventh. He’ll oppose Yordano Ventura, who also didn’t pitch well in that game. There was plenty of talk about Kershaw’s playoff struggles before he pitched very well this season. Toronto is banking its season that Price turns it around tonight.
Where’s the drama?
While the NLCS was a sweep, the games were somewhat competitive. That hasn’t been the case in the AL, where no game has been decided by fewer than three runs. The Royals took Game 4 by a score of 14-2 and lost the next night 7-1. This series has had some firsts, though. Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar became the first player ever to lead off the first four games of any playoff series with a hit. He has a double and a triple in that span before finally being retired to start Game 5. In Tuesday’s blowout, Toronto’s Cliff Pennington became the first position player to pitch in the postseason. He allowed two singles before inducing a foul pop up to end the inning. It’s always entertaining, so here’s the video, which includes 91-mph heat:
World Series preview
The Fall Classic starts Tuesday (the entire playoff schedule was predetermined) in an American League ballpark, thanks to Mike Trout and the rest of the AL All Stars, which included seven Royals and three Blue Jays. The Dodgers’ Greinke and Kershaw allowed a total of three runs in the 6-3 loss. The Mets’ Jacob deGrom did his part, striking out the side on 10 pitches in his inning of work. Regardless of the matchup, the Mets will have the pitching edge in perhaps every game. However, the Royals were there last year and don’t strike out a lot. Toronto’s offense can explode for a crooked inning at any time. The Royals would be a contrast in styles since Ned Yost can’t wait to turn the ball over to his bullpen, while Terry Collins knows his best chance is sticking with his starter as long as possible before giving the ball to his closer. The Royals and Mets open the 2016 season against each other in Kansas City. No matter what, this will be the first ever all-expansion team World Series. The first World Series was played in 1903, and every one since has included one of the 16 original franchise. This one won’t though, as the Mets arrived in 1962, while the Royals (1969) and Blue Jays (1977) came later.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about baseball and other sports at http://andrewjkahn.com and his Scoop and Score podcast is on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn