MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Mets party like it's '86, change Series in a hurry

Mets party like it's '86, change Series in a hurry

NEW YORK -- For two days, the Mets heard all about how their 1986 predecessors turned an 0-2 deficit into a World Series title, and a pregame montage on that bigger-than-life videoboard in center field hammered the point home. And sure enough, the 2015 version did prove capable of retaining its postseason pulse.

So now, in the wake of the Mets' Series-resuscitating 9-3 victory over the Royals on Friday night at Citi Field, you're going to see plenty of this:

1986 World Series
Game 1: Mets lose by 1
Game 2: Mets lose by 6
Game 3: Mets win by 6
End result: Championship

2015 World Series
Game 1: Mets lose by 1
Game 2: Mets lose by 6
Game 3: Mets win by 6
End result: ?????

That's fine, funny and maybe even a little bit freaky.

Truth is, we still can't say for certain if it's more appropriate to bring up 1986 than it is to bring up 2000. Both teams felt the heat of 0-2 and both felt the relief of a win in Game 3. Their Series took decidedly different turns from there.

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Game Date Matchup
Gm 1 Oct. 27 KC 5, NYM 4 (14)
Gm 2 Oct. 28 KC 7, NYM 1
Gm 3 Oct. 30 NYM 9, KC 3
Gm 4 Oct. 31 KC 5, NYM 3
Gm 5 Nov. 1 KC 7, NYM 2 (12)

But 1986 is at least illustrative of how things really can change quickly in this game when a team gets back to doing the things it once did so well -- and a return to normalcy was something stressed in the Mets' clubhouse before Game 3 began.

"Just continue to play, continue to play," said veteran Michael Cuddyer, who spoke up at a pregame meeting. "We've got to win four games. It doesn't matter how you do it or the order it comes in. You've got to win four games."

The Mets won their first of this Fall Classic by coming out of a brief but meaningful collective coma at the plate and by watching a young starter make a midgame metamorphosis.

We'll talk about Noah Syndergaard in a second, but it's first important to note that the bats showed the seeds of what transpired in 1986. That year, the Mets hit .190 in their first eight postseason games, then hit .298 from Game 3 forward to stun the Red Sox (well, of course, the most stunning moment of all involved an error, not a hit, but you get the idea).

On this night, there was something stirring about David Wright's first-inning home run on an elevated 96-mph fastball from Yordano Ventura. It was, obviously, the first World Series homer of Wright's career, but more to the point, Wright hadn't gone deep on a pitch with such velocity since May 2013.

"You go up there and you have a guy that throws extremely hard," Wright said. "And you know you better be on time, because he can throw the ball right by you. I was trying to tell myself, 'Just kind of nice and easy,' because he supplies the power. You throw upper 90s, you've just got to try to meet it."

This was a big blast for the individual, and it was an even bigger one for the team. The Mets, to that point, had just one extra-base hit in 80 at-bats in this World Series. The combination of Kauffman Stadium's spacious outfield and the Royals' rangy defenders was not good for New York.

Wright on playing Fall Classic

The return to Citi Field was, though -- as evidenced most clearly by Curtis Granderson's game-changing wall-scraper of a two-run shot. That homer, off Ventura's 94-mph sinker, gave the Mets their second lead of the ballgame -- the one that stuck. There would be other important runs, of course, and one wonders how much idle time it would take to rob Juan Uribe of his ability to rip offspeed stuff in the zone.

What mattered most, though, was that early power and Syndergaard's ability to use his power repertoire more effectively than his mates had done in Games 1 and 2.

With Syndergaard, there was genuine curiosity regarding how he'd attack a Royals offense that had proven remarkably pesky in Games 1 and 2. If we dumb down their lines to three runs over six innings, Matt Harvey and Syndergaard had exactly the same outing against Kansas City. But while Harvey generally commanded his pitches for strikes, he had a distinct inability to get the Royals' hitters to chase offspeed stuff out of the zone. Jacob deGrom, meanwhile, had trouble throwing his offspeed stuff for strikes.

Syndergaard had ample data at his disposal regarding the Royals' ability to hit the fastball, but you don't win in this environment by getting cute or reinventing your repertoire on the fly. When the Mets changed the 1986 Series with a Game 3 win, it was Bobby Ojeda and his upper-80s junk keeping Boston -- a team that feasted on fastballs -- at bay.

Syndergaard's strength doesn't play into this particular opponents' weakness nearly as well, but it's always better to dance with the one who brought you than it is to make a mid-October makeover. It's kind of like another parallel to 1986 -- one involving Friday's national anthem singer. That was the year Billy Joel released "A Matter of Trust," and he backed the single with a music video that featured him playing the guitar. It was odd, it was unusual and it never felt right.

Syndergaard on pivotal 6th frame

This outing from Syndergaard felt right. Though the Royals' three early runs off him presented a possible occasion to crumble, Syndergaard didn't do it. He made an early mechanical adjustment to get the ball back down in the zone. Most importantly, Syndergaard trusted his fastball (throwing it for strikes 73 percent of the time, per Inside Edge), and, though he had trouble commanding his offspeed pitches overall (56 percent), he made his slider work for him when it mattered most, using back-to-back sliders to retire Alex Rios with the final out of the sixth, when Kansas City had loaded the bases.

"He settled in," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He settled down and started throwing his secondary stuff for strikes and spotting his fastball better."

This whole evening came down to the Mets settling in and settling down. Backed by an amped-up home crowd, an awakened offense and a confident kid on the mound, they made this an earnest Series.

"Whenever we've needed a win," said Cuddyer, "we've gotten a win."

The Mets got the win, just as they did in '86. It's a comparison they hope to maintain.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.