World Series 2015: Baseball poised for a New York Mets miracle

Yoenis Cespedes, who has revived the Mets’ offense, will be vital against the Kansas City Royals

The team were coming off six straight losing seasons. Their owner, the Brooklyn-born real estate mogul Fred Wilpon had been entangled in the crash of the financial fraudster Bernie Madoff. Oh yes, and in the first half of the 2015 regular season, they had one of the worst offensive records in the major leagues. Now the New York Mets are in the World Series. What happened? The short answer is, another Mets miracle.

The first one happened back in 1969 when they beat the overwhelmingly favoured Baltimore Orioles. They picked up another championship in 1986 at the expense of the Boston Red Sox, but lost on their last appearance on baseball’s biggest stage in 2000, to their crosstown Yankee rivals, in whose outsize shadow the Mets – like the Brooklyn Dodgers before them – have usually languished.

The first half of the 2015 season seemed to offer just more of the same, capped by a terrible loss to the San Diego Padres on 30 July. But the very next day, everything changed. On 31 July, hours before the trade deadline, the Mets picked up slugger Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers. They haven’t looked back since.

Led by Cespedes, a reborn offense smashed home runs every which way. After powering to the National League East title, they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first play-off round, and then demolished the Chicago Cubs in a 4-0 sweep to win the NL pennant. Tonight the Mets face the Kansas City Royals of the American League in the first game of what is one of the most finely poised World Series in memory.

The Mets are the narrowest of favourites, but there’s hardly a hair to split the two teams. The Royals had a slightly tougher journey to baseball’s supreme stage, needing six games to see off the Toronto Blue Jays and win the AL championship.

But having lost the previous Series in a seven-game thriller to the San Francisco Giants, they know what big occasions are all about, and have a point to prove. They will enjoy home-field advantage, playing four of the scheduled seven games in front of their own fans. They have a line-up that has improved from 2014, full of contact hitters and with terrific speed on the bases. They also have arguably the most fearsome relief pitching in the game. Hand over a sixth or seventh-inning lead to the Royals bullpen, and a game is virtually in the bank.

However, the Mets are as well equipped, to make sure that doesn’t happen. There’s Cespedes of course, but also the prodigious second baseman Daniel Murphy. While a solid but rarely spectacular performer in the regular season, post-season Murphy’s been a miracle in his own right, homering in six straight games, a feat that has never before been accomplished. Take that, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds.

The biggest reason for New York’s success, however, is their starting rotation. Great pitching beats great hitting, according to one of baseball’s oldest maxims – and during those six losing seasons the Mets were quietly putting together a remarkable stable of talented young pitchers. In 2015, they’ve all come good together.

Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, the announced starters for Games One to Four, all possess electric arms (fastballs that top out at 97/98 mph) and pinpoint control. Syndergaard has just turned 23; DeGrom, the oldest of them, is only 27. Their combined post-season ERA is a miserly 2.60. If they carry that form into the World Series, the Mets can win it all.

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