Casey’s Corner: The Road to the Classic

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The World Series is one of America’s most coveted trophies. The greatest to ever play have hoisted the “Commissioner’s Trophy.” From Babe Ruth to Derek Jeter, the greats shine brightest when the crisp fall air surrounds ballparks across America.

The 2015 MLB Season has reached its final stage. Two teams remain, both vying for their first World Series title since the 1980s.

The New York Mets have secured a National League Pennant for the first time since 2000.  A team whose history has been founded upon miracles has seen yet another miracle reveal itself.

Before the 2015 MLB season began, the New York Mets weren’t even favored to win a division title.

The immensely talented Washington Nationals  led by young superstar  Bryce Harper, and newly acquired ace Max Scherzer were expected to blow by everyone in the National League and advance to the World Series. Little would the world know, another giant was awaiting their chance to prove themselves.

The Mets had a flurry of questions surrounding them at the beginning of the season.

With the lack of offensive production, The devastation pitching of the Mets kept them afloat the entire first half of the season.

The  rotation is and has been comprised of young stars and impact phenoms.

The “Dark Knight” Matt Harvey returned to the Mets after missing all of the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery.

Jacob Degrom entered the 2015 season as the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, and the new “ace” of the Mets.

Noah Syndergaard was a coveted prospect that the Mets acquired in 2013 when the Mets traded Cy Young winner RA Dickey to the Blue Jays. Syndergaard has been electirc the entire season especially at home in Citi Field where his ERA “Earned Run Average” is under 3.

Southpaw Steven Matz set the bar high after his MLB debut against the Cincinnati Reds. Matz became the first pitcher in MLB history to record four RBI “runs batted in” in his debut.

With the pitching staff dominating opposing lineups, the Mets pressing need for some offensive production was evident.

The Mets acquired productive bats in Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe however, the Mets impact trade came in the form of prying  “La Potencia” Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers.

Since the trade, the Mets have consistently been ranked in the top five in runs scored, home runs, and runs batted in. Cespedes is an enormous reason why the Mets are where they are this late in the season.

Cespedes has hit 17 home runs since joining the Mets. His season total reached a gargantous 35 long balls. Factoring in the ballparks Cespedes played in this season, Citi Field in New York, and Commerica Park in Detroit aren’t exactly “hitter friendly” ballparks.

With the impact  moves that the Mets and General Manager Sandy Alderson made, the best move the Mets made however, was the move they didn’t make.

July 29, the Mets hosted the San Diego Padres at Citi Field. Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores was seen emotionally distraught on the field after learning that he had been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers along with pitcher Zach Wheeler for Outfielder Carlos Gomez.

As the game concluded, the Baseball world received news that the trade fell through due to concerns over Gomez’s hip. Flores continued his tenure as a Met.

Two days later in what was a critical series against the Washington Nationals, Flores hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning. Flores instantly became a Mets fan favorite.

The Mets entered the postseason on a high note.

After the Mets claimed the National East Division Title, they  defeated the most expensive payroll in the history of Major League Baseball otherwise known as the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Divisional Series (NLDS), the Mets swept the young upstart Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series (NLCS).

The Mets rotation has been the key to the Mets success the entire season. The Mets continued to mow down opposing lineups throughout the postseason. The lineup has peaked at the right time.

A red hot Mets lineup led by Second Baseman Daniel Murphy  has produced at historic proportions. Daniel Murphy has an active six game home run streak which is a new postseason record, eclipsing Carlos Beltran’s previous record of five straight games.

The Mets possess a fundamentally sound lineup, the imperfect fusion of power, average, discipline, and speed proves that this Mets team isn’t the same Mets team from the first half of the season.

Terry Collins, the manager of the Mets, has seen his share of up and downs as both the manager of the Mets, and in his previous managerial tenures.

From the Minor Leagues, to brief stints in the Major Leagues with the Houston Astros and Anaheim Angels to the NPB “Nippon Professional Baseball” in Japan as a manager of the Orix Buffaloes, to the manager of the 2009 Chinese World Baseball Classic team, Terry Collins has seen his fair share of different surroundings.

For the first time, Collins has been given an opportunity to manage the Mets to their third World Series Championship.

The Mets have not won the World Series since 1986. Baseball fans, especially Red Sox fans have lived one of the most infamous plays in history over and over again.

In Game six of the 1986 World Series, the Boston Red Sox were one out away from ending the “Curse of the Bambino.” Wally Backman, the Mets Second Baseman, flew out to Jim Rice in Left Field, First Baseman Keith Hernandez flew out to Dave Henderson in Center Field. The Sox were one out away when the curse happened.

Mets catcher Gary Carter singled to Left Field,  pinch hitter Kevin Mitchell singled to center, eventual World Series MVP Ray Knight hit an RBI single to center to score Carter to cut the deficit to one run. Bob Stanley came in relief for Calvin Schiraldi in hopes to prevent Mitchell, the tying run at third base from scoring.

Stanley threw a wild pitch to score Mitchell from third base to tie the game. Little would the world know that a slowly hit ground ball by Left Fielder Mookie Wilson would change history.

In the words of legendary broadcaster Vin Scully:“So the winning run is at second base, with two out. Three and two to Mookie Wilson. A little roller up along first.. BEHIND THE BAG!! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER. HERE COMES KNIGHT AND THE METS WIN IT!!”

After the immaculate victory in game six, the Mets emerged victorious in game seven to clinch their first World Series championship since the 1969, the year of the “Miracle Mets.”

The Mets have a fighting chance to bring home a third title in 2015. The unlikely Mets, led by a stellar pitching staff and a revitalized batting lineup, have given glimmers of hope to Mets fans.

The Kansas City Royals for the second straight season have won the American League Pennant. Led by one of the most productive batting lineups in Baseball, a solid starting rotation and an even more potent bullpen, the Royals look to finish what they started last October.

The Royals were 90 feet away from possibly winning the World Series last season. The San Francisco Giants, led by the inconceivable performance by Madison Bumgarner, defeated the Royals in Game seven of the 2014 World Series.

The Royals entered 2015 with most of their core players returning from the 2014 World Series campaign. The devastating combination of speed, outstanding defense, contact hitters and dominant pitching has been the blueprint of the Kansas City attack.

One of the questions surrounding the Royals this season was whether or not Kansas City could survive pitcher James Shields’ departure in free agency last winter. Another was whether or not the Royals were a fluke.

The Royals signed pitcher Edinson Volquez in free agency, and made a trade with the Cincinnati Reds prior to the Trade Deadline to acquire Johnny Cueto to attempt to fill the void left by James Shields’ departure.

Volquez has been solid for the Royals, while Cueto has mightily struggled since his trade to the Royals.

Another impact move came in the form of acquiring Kendrys Morales in free agency.

Morales was signed in an attempt to replace Billy Butler, the Royal’s previous designated hitter. Like Shields, Butler left Kansas City in favor of the Oakland Athletics.

Morales has filled the void left by Butler and then some.

Morales had the third highest batting average on the team this season (.290) only trailing All-Stars Lorenzo Cain (.307) and Eric Hosmer (.297).

Morales led the team in RBI with 106 throughout the regular season.

The Royals also acquired super utility-man Ben Zobrist in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.

Zobrist has been an invaluable pickup.

Prior to the Royals’ acquisition of Zobrist, their Second Baseman Omar Infante was among one of the worst offensive players in all of the Major Leagues.

Zobrist is a man that is capable of playing many positions with exceptional defense, along with production at the plate.

Since joining the Royals midseason, Zobrist has a .284 batting average along with seven home runs. Since October began, Zobrist has hit at a .326 clip while leading the team in runs scored.

The Royals finished the MLB Regular Season with the American League Central Division Title. Kansas City also clinched home-field advantage throughout the entire postseason due to their standing as the #1 seed in the American League.

The Royals’ path to the 2015 Fall Classic was the epitome of Royals Baseball.

As the Royals faced the Houston Astros in the American League Divisional Series, the Astros, the  winner of the American League Wild Card Game, were out to prove that they were this season’s Royals.

The Royals quickly found themselves down in the best of 5 series 2-1 against the potent Astros team. Facing elimination, the Royals did what they do best, score runs late in ballgames.

In Game 4, the Astros drilled Royals pitching via the long ball.

Young Shortstop and Astros rookie sensation Carlos Correa hit two home runs in what was a series-clinching game for the Astros.

Correa became the second youngest player in MLB history to hit two home runs in one postseason game. The only player younger than Correa to accomplish this feat was Outfielder Andruw Jones, who hit two home runs at the age of 19.

Correa’s historic night was spoiled by a furious Royals comeback.

The Royals erased a four run deficit in the eighth inning to tie the game.

Right Fielder Alex Rios led off the top of the eighth with a lead off single to Left Field. Shortstop Alcides Escobar singled on a ground ball to Center Field. Second Baseman Ben Zobrist lined a single into Center Field loading the bases for Center Fielder Lorenzo Cain, who hit an RBI single into Left Field to score Escober from third base.

After a pitching change, First Baseman Eric Hosmer hit an RBI single to Right Field to score Escobar. Designated Hitter Kendrys Morales reached on a fielding error by Shortstop Carlos Correa to score both Zobrist and Cain to tie the game.

Royals Left Fielder Alex Gordon scored Eric Hosmer on an RBI groundout to give the Royals the lead.

In the top of the ninth inning,with a runner on base, Eric Hosmer hit a two run home run to extend the Royals lead to three runs.

The Royals emerged victorious in one of the most unlikely comebacks in the 2015 Postseason 9-6.

After forcing a winner-take-all Game 5 in Kansas City, the Royals finished off the series and the Astros with a 7-2 victory in Game 5.

This was not the first time that the Royals rallied to extend their season while facing elimination.

The 2014 American League Wild Card Game against the Oakland Athletics was an instant reminder of the Royals resiliency.

Down 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Royals scored three runs against the Athletics pitching.

Shortstop Alcides Escobar led off the bottom of the eighth with a single against Jon Lester, Escobar proceeded to steal second base and advance to third on a Nori Aoki groundout to second. Lorenzo Cain singled home Escobar then stole second base.

After Lester walked First Baseman Eric Hosmer, Luke Gregerson came in relief of Lester in an attempt to avoid blowing a four run lead.

The first man Gregerson faced was Designated Hitter Billy Butler. Butler laced an RBI single to Left Field to score Cain.

Still down by one run, the Royals made one last push to send the game into extra innings.

Athletics closer Sean Doolittle attempted to shut the door on the Royals.

Josh Willingham came in to pinch hit for third baseman Mike Moustakas. Willingham singled on a fly ball to Right Field. Jarrod Dyson, one of the fastest players in the Major Leagues to this day came in to pinch run for Willingham.

Escobar advanced Dyson to second base on a sacrifice bunt.

With Right Fielder Nori Aoki at the plate for the Royals, Dyson stole third base. Dyson then scored on a sacrifice fly to Right Field to tie the game.

As the game went into extra innings, the Athletics scored in the top of the 12th inning when pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo lined an RBI single over the head of Escobar at short to score Josh Reddick.

Down to their final three outs, Kansas City finished off a game for the ages.

After Cain grounded out for the Royals, Hosmer stepped up to the plate and drove a one out triple to Left Center Field.

Pinch Hitter Christian Colon singled to third base to score Hosmer to tie the game.

Fernando Abad came in relief for Dan Otero to face Gordon who popped up to third base in foul territory.

Jason Hammel replaced Abad to face Royals Catcher Salvador Perez.

With Perez at the plate, Colon stole second base to move himself into scoring position. With Colon representing the winning run, Perez hit an RBI double down the Left Field line just past the outstretched reach of Athletics Third Baseman Josh Donaldson.

The Royals pulse pounding victory epitomized the unlikeliness of October Baseball, and the never-dying Royals team.

The Royals faced the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2015 American League Championship Series (ALCS), a rematch of the 1985 ALCS.

The ‘85 Royals led by ALCS MVP George Brett erased a 3-1 deficit to win the series in seven games. The Royals went on to win the World Series that season against the St.Louis Cardinals in seven games.

The Royals possessed a critical Home Field Advantage going into the 2015 ALCS due to Toronto’s incapability to clinch the #1 seed.

The Blue Jays cited a lack of “focus” due to their excessive partying after clinching the American League East Division.

The Royals took the first two games of the Series at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals then faced the daunting task of defeating the Blue Jays with an entire nation’s support at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

The Royals left Canada losing two of three games in Toronto (Games 3/5). However, with a 3-2 series lead, and one win away from another trip to the World Series, the Royals played game six at Kauffman Stadium in front of their rowdy home crowd.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Royals and the Blue Jays were deadlocked in a 3-3 tie.

After Center Fielder Lorenzo Cain drew a leadoff walk, the Royals utilized their speed on the basepaths.

First Baseman Eric Hosmer singled to Right Field scoring Cain.

Cain accelerated around the bases scoring from first base at 21 miles per hour giving the Royals a 4-3 lead.

The Royals gave the ball to their closer Wade Davis to finish off the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays didn’t go down quietly.

Blue Jays Catcher Russell Martin singled on a fly ball to Center Field to lead off the top half of the ninth.

The incredibly swift Dalton Pompey came in to pinch run for Martin. Pompey stole second base with Center Fielder Kevin Pillar at the plate to set himself up in scoring position and he represented the tying run.

Pillar drew a walk to put two men on with nobody out.

With pinch hitter Dioner Navarro at the plate Pillar stole second base. Pillar represented the go ahead run at second.

Navarro struck out swinging to give the Blue Jays their first out.

Blue Jays Left Fielder Ben Revere also struck out swinging.

Toronto was down to their final out, Third Baseman Josh Donaldson.

Davis got Donaldson to groundout to Third Baseman Mike  Moustakas to end the game and Toronto’s for a game seven and a shot at redemption for their previous loss to the Royals in 1985.

The Royals won their second pennant in as many years.

The stage is set. The Royals and the Mets. For the first time in MLB History, two expansion teams are featured in the World Series.

One thing’s for sure, we’re in for another exciting finish to the MLB Season.