The Royals and New York Mets will meet for the first time since June of 2016, which you might recall came just a season after the Royals beat the Mets in a little tournament called the World Series. Things have changed a bit since then with the Royals becoming a bottom feeder and the Mets having one of the weirder years in recent memory. They started out with their brand new agent turned general manager with hopes of competing. They spent a lot, both in prospect capital and money, to try to compete and things weren’t really working out, falling to 11 games below .500 after a July 12th lost to the Marlins. Then they got hit, winning four in a row before basically alternating wins and losses for a week and then winning 15 of 16 games to get themselves right back in the race for the second Wild Card. They’ve hit a slight hiccup over the past few games just because they’ve lost a couple games, but this is a team at least hot adjacent right now, if not still firing directly in the hot range.
Meet the Mets
Royals vs. Mets Tale of the Tape
|Highest fWAR||Hunter Dozier, 3.0||Jacob deGrom, 4.9|
Mets Projected Lineup
Mets Projected Bench
|Ruben Tejada (AAA)||INF||304||.330||.408||.476||9.5%||16.1%||131||---|
Mets Key Relievers
Probable Pitching Matchups
Friday August 16th - 7:15pm
If the Royals want to win this series, they have to go right through the heart of the Mets rotation, starting with Noah Syndergaard. He hasn’t been as dominant this year as he had in the past with fewer strikeouts and more walks and a few more home runs (though he’s still well above average when it comes to home run prevention). But that’s also looking at his season as a whole. Since the break, Thor has returned, throwing 42.1 innings with a 1.91 ERA and just 34 hits allowed with 44 strikeouts and one home run. He’s getting tons of whiffs and weak contact and just generally has been awesome, which isn’t great for the Royals. It’s maybe worth noting that he’s struck out just eight in his last 14 innings with way fewer swings and misses, but he’s still pitched well. His velocity is still way up there with both his fastball and sinker averaging better than 97 MPH, but one thing that’s maybe a little weird is that after throwing his sinker considerably more in July when he was going great, he’s reverted back to the four-seamer as his primary pitch. It’s been really good, so it’s hard to say that’s wrong, but it’s interesting at the very least. This could be a fun matchup to watch as the Royals actually have some guys to match up with the heat. Jorge Soler is hitting .362 on 95 MPH+ fastballs this year and Hunter Dozier is at .349. Both are slugging around .700. Syndergaard obviously has a nasty slider to make them both look silly, but if he challenges them, it’ll at least be a fun show.
The Royals counter with a very different type of pitcher in Mike Montgomery, who has been interestingly intriguing in his last two starts. After getting just 10 whiffs in his first three starts with the Royals, he’s picked up 34 in his last two. Yes, he got 21 against the Tigers, which probably deserves a bit of an asterisk for both being against the Tigers and for pitching in the weird Comerica Saturday night game shadows for the first few innings. But he still did it, and that’s encouraging. It would be a lot easier to explain the turnaround if it was one thing, but maybe it’s more encouraging that it isn’t just one thing. In his start against the Tigers, he used his changeup to get a ton of whiffs (10 to be exact) and got seven more with his cutter. In his start against the Red Sox, his curve got him eight whiffs while the changeup and cutter didn’t perform nearly as well on swings and misses. In both starts, though, the changeup was a dominant pitch, which is good news because the Mets offense leans very heavily to the right side, so he’ll need that pitch against them. As long as he’s careful with Conforto and has his changeup working to neutralize their power, he has a chance to be really good again.
Saturday August 17th - 6:15pm
The reason the Mets have always had a shot to go on a run is their pitching. With most teams, you get a breather after facing a guy like Syndergaard, but the Royals follow him up with last year’s Cy Young winner, Jacob deGrom. No, he hasn’t been as good this year, but he’s been really good still. His strikeouts are pretty comparable and he’s both walking a few more and giving up some more home runs, but he’s still near elite in both categories. He’s also still a tough luck guy with the Mets averaging just 3.88 runs per game in his starts. Oh and he’s also on fire too with a 1.97 ERA in his last 96 innings with 122 strikeouts and just eight walks in that time. The guy is amazing. When he’s behind in the count, he allows a .242 average. When he’s ahead in the count, he allows a .177 average. With runners in scoring position, he allows a .196 average and .277 SLG. And the third time through the order, he allows a .240/.304/.377 line, which is just stupid. If you’re looking for a real weakness, you won’t be able to find, but he should be a similarly fun matchup for Dozier and Soler at least, even if it doesn’t end up going the Royals way.
Jakob Junis is coming off his second straight solid start after a couple hiccups. Again, the Tigers caveat applies, but you still have to beat who you face and Jorge Lopez and Brad Keller couldn’t do it, so he doesn’t lose credit. In each of the last two starts, he’s obviously had at least a pretty good slider because Junis would struggle massively without that, but he’s worked with the hard stuff better with a good sinker in his last start and a good four-seamer in the start prior. The slider will once again be very important in this one as only Pete Alonso among Mets hitters likely to play has hit sliders from right-handers well, though when you change the parameters to a spin rate of 2500 or more, which is what Junis averages with his, only Amed Rosario and Wilson Ramos have actually hit it well. In fact, Pete Alonso has struggled a bit with a good slider like that, hitting just .238 with a .345 wOBA. The Mets can beat a good slider, but a good slider can also beat the Mets and I’m not sure Junis has another way to handle this solid lineup without it, so he better hope it’s working.
Sunday August 18th - 1:15pm
To finish things off, the Royals will get a look at Zack Wheeler, who was excellent in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery last year and has been better in some ways this year, but also worse in others. He’s given up more hits this year, which might have something to do with throwing more pitches in the strike zone than last season. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but he’s actually getting hitters to swing at pitches outside the zone a little more than last year, so maybe he’d benefit from living outside the zone a bit more. This might surprise you, but he’s another Mets starter who throws hard, averaging 96.6 on his sinker and 96.8 on his four-seam fastball. The sinker has been a bit of a problem, though with a .298 average against and .500 SLG, so maybe he’d benefit from throwing his four-seamer a bit more. It’s been great with a 27.4 percent whiff rate and 30.1 percent strikeout rate. He also has a slider that can be plenty nasty and a changeup that is workable. So for the third game in a row, the Royals will have their work cut out for them.
Glenn Sparkman takes the ball for the Royals to end the series and the homestand. He was okay in his start against the Cardinals on Tuesday. He labored early, but ended up giving up just one earned run in six innings with four hits allowed. But he was back to not getting any whiffs with just four the entire game. I know I talk about that a lot, but pitchers who get swings and misses tend to fare better than those who don’t and Sparkman typically doesn’t. He didn’t allow a home run and has now allowed just two in August in 15 innings, which is good for him. Even with the lack of swings and misses, his fastball was actually really good for him with a lot of weak contact and he even reached back and hit near 97 with it against St. Louis. If he can get his changeup working, we could be looking at good Sparkman again in this one.
The Mets are still playing some good baseball and have the pitching edge every day of this series. And the lineup edge. I’m tempted to pick a Mets sweep, so that’s what I’m going to do, and people aren’t going to be happy on Sunday once it’s done. What do you think happens this series?
How does the 2015 World Series rematch end?
This poll is closed
Royals Win Two of Three
Mets Win Two of Three