KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Anyone arriving a little early to a New York Mets game this season has probably witnessed “The Walk.”
Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom or another emerging ace striding in from the bullpen following pregame warmups, with pitching coach Dan Warthen right alongside – and the rest of that fearless rotation trailing just behind.
For opposing hitters, it’s become an imposing march to impending doom.
Riding four young starters all the way through October, the hard-throwing Mets are ready to fire their best stuff at the Kansas City Royals in the 111th World Series. Game 1 is Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium, with Harvey set to face Edinson Volquez.
“I don’t think any of us have really sat back and kind of realized what we can accomplish as a group,” Harvey said Monday. “Right now, it’s about our team and about winning.”
Kansas City came excruciatingly close to winning it all last year, losing Game 7 at home to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants with the potential tying run 90 feet from home plate.
“That’s pretty hard to swallow. That’s going to stay with you for a while,” Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas said. “I think the only way to get rid of that feeling is to go out this year and finish the deal.”
With cohesion and camaraderie in mind, deGrom said New York’s starters began watching each other warm up during spring training, when they all needed to be out on the field for the national anthem anyway.
It’s not an entirely unique practice – veteran teammate Kelly Johnson recalled St. Louis and Tampa Bay pitchers doing the same thing. But by the time rookies Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz were called up from the minors, it was a signature part of the Mets’ routine.
“It’s just a great feeling to go out there and know that the other starting pitchers are out there supporting you as well,” Syndergaard said. “It’s kind of like we have almost our own little unit to support each other and push each other to be better.”
As catcher Travis d’Arnaud put it: “It just shows that they have each other’s back no matter what. They’re always there for each other, good or bad.”
There’s been much more good than bad for New York’s fantastic four under the pressure of their first postseason. Showing savvy, poise and grit that bely their limited experience, they’ve already pitched the Mets to their first National League pennant in 15 years.
Now, they want to take home the ultimate prize.
“We all have a mission to win this last series,” Matz said.
“There’s still work to do,” deGrom echoed.
Last season’s NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom goes in Game 2 against enigmatic Royals newcomer Johnny Cueto. After winning 14 games this season, deGrom went 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three playoff outings.
When the series shifts back home to Citi Field, the Mets will turn to Syndergaard and Matz in that order – making them the first team since the 1997 Marlins (Livan Hernandez and Tony Saunders) to start two rookie pitchers in the World Series, according to STATS.
The quartet has combined for only 147 career regular-season starts, by far the fewest for a World Series foursome, STATS said. Three of them already had Tommy John surgery, yet the Mets were the hardest-throwing staff in the majors this year.
“We’ve got four guys that legitimately could throw Game 1,” captain David Wright said. “Maybe not Steve because of the experience, but you’ve got three guys that you could flip a three-sided coin to pitch Game 1.”
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