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Cain's Speed & Murphy's Power Lead Royals and Mets to World Series

The Royals’ return to the World Series is no surprise to me. They ran away with the
AL Central title and didn’t play a meaningful game after the All-Star Game until the playoffs began.

Then down to the last six outs of their season, they rallied for five runs in the eighth inning to tie the upstart Houston Astros in the AL Division Series. They dispatched Houston the next day and kept the upper hand against the homer-happy Toronto Blue Jays throughout the AL Championship Series.

Just as he did in one of the Houston games, Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain provided a unforgettable moment by scoring the deciding run in the bottom of the eighth all the way from first base on a single to right field.

It was a moment of redemption for Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele who held Alex Gordon at third base in the ninth inning of Game 7 of last year’s World Series won by the Giants led by overpowering southpaw Madison Bumgarner.

Cain is a much faster runner than Gordon and once right fielder Jose Bautista threw the ball to second base to hold Eric Hosmer to a single there was no stopping Cain’s feet and Jirschele’s whirling arms.

Nobody, even their most ardent supporters, expected the Mets to reach the World Series. Yet behind great young starting pitching and formidable closer in Jeurys Familia, they swept the overmatched Chicago Cubs after winning a tough best-of-five series over the LA Dodgers.

Hindsight tells us that the Cubs had exhausted their energy by knocking their arch-rival Cardinals out of the playoffs. Once the Mets took a lead on Cy Young candidate Jake Arrieta early in game two of the NLCS, I was not surprised by their pulling off the sweep in Chicago.

The confidence level of the Mets has to be at an all-time high. They beat LA’s two great starters, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and then Arrieta and Jon Lester of the Cubs. Daniel Murphy, never known as a power hitter, homered off all of them, including twice off Kershaw.

Murphy also provided a positive Murphy Moment as a base runner in the clinching Game 5 against LA. His manager Terry Collins evidently coined the term Murphy Moment for his notorious base-running gaffes.

Yet in the deciding game against LA, with the Mets down a run and Murphy on first base, he alertly sped to third after a walk to Yoenis Cespedes when he saw no Dodger covering the bag. All LA infielders had shifted to the right side of the diamond and neither pitcher Greinke nor catcher Yosmani Grandal broke to cover third.

The next batter hit a short fly ball to right field and Murphy tagged up to score the tying run. Two innings later he homered for the deciding run.

It should be a great competitive World Series. So much juicy questions loom:

Will Murphy after nearly a week off still be red-hot at the plate?

Will Kansas City’s starting pitching, its only seeming weak point, rise to the occasion?

Can the Mets’ bullpen in front of Familia, its own weak spot, pitch better?

Which of each team’s dominant closers, Familia and the Royals’ Wade Davis, will prove mortal? In the clincher against Toronto, Davis worked out of a major jam with two runners in scoring position and only one out.

Kansas City has the home field advantage because the American League won the All-Star Game, a silly reason to bestow that honor. This year the benefit has worked out fairly because Kansas City did have the best regular season record in all of baseball.

I’m not a betting man but I think that edge might prove the difference. Certainly the teams look evenly matched for a long absorbing series.

Of course, yaneverknow, yaneverknow, in baseball.

That’s all for now. Always remember in baseball and in life:
Take it easy but take it!
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