New York Mets @Kansas City Royals
Wednesday, October 27
5:07 pm PT on FOX
New York Mets (0-1) @Kansas City Royals (1-0)
Jacob deGrom vs. Johnny Cueto
Game 2 features Jacob deGrom against Johnny Cueto. deGrom was the Mets’ best starting pitcher this season, going 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He had a stellar strikeout rate (9.7 K/9) and was stingy with the walks (1.8 BB/9). His excellence extends back to his rookie year in 2014. In 52 career starts, deGrom is 23-14 with a 2.61 career ERA.
Johnny Cueto’s season has been a mixed bag. He started the year with the Cincinnati Reds, the only Major League team he’d ever pitched for. In 19 starts with the Reds, Cueto was 7-6 with a 2.62 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. In late July, Cueto was traded to the Royals for three left-handed pitchers: Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Cody Reed. Cueto was supposed to be the top-of-the-rotation ace the Royals needed, but he struggled to a 4-7 record with a 4.76 ERA and 1.45 WHIP with the Royals. His strikeout rate dropped from 8.3 K/9 with the Reds to 6.2 K/9 with the Royals.
deGrom has been very good in the post-season. In his three starts, he is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. In two starts in the ALDS, Cueto had a 3.86 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, but he was blasted in his only start against the Blue Jays in the ALCS, giving up 8 runs in 2 innings.
According to ESPN.com, deGrom was asked who had better hair between him and Cueto and deGrom responded with, “I think mine is gone at the end of the year, so I’ll give that award to him. It’s driving me nuts. I’ve got to get rid of it.”
Cueto agreed, saying through an interpreter, “I’m going to say mine. I’m not going to say someone else’s.” Hey, when you grow your hair for as long as Cueto has, you have to take pride in it.
The hitting star for the Royals in Game One was Ben Zobrist, who was 3 for 6 with a run and a walk. Zobrist scored the second run of the game after leading off the 6th inning with a double to right. In the bottom of the 14th, his single moved Alcides Escobar from first to third, which led to Eric Hosmer’s game-winning sacrifice fly.
Ben Zobrist has been in the league so long, when he first came up to the majors in 2006, the Tampa Bay team was still known as the Devil Rays. They later dropped the Devil and became just the Rays. The accepted explanation for purging the Devil from the team name was that ownership wanted to change the team’s fortunes after years of losing baseball. Another theory that has not been confirmed is that the team dropped the “Devil” in a attempt to attract more Latino fans, whose religious beliefs may have been offended by the reference to the devil. Zobrist played for the Devil Rays in 2006 and 2007 but hit just .200/.234/.275 in 83 games over those two seasons.
In his first two years, Zobrist played exclusively at shortstop, but starting with the 2008 season, he began to move around the diamond. With his ability to play well defensively at multiple positions, and his bat producing a solid on-base percentage/slugging percentage combination, Zobrist became one of the better players in baseball. Advanced metrics LOVED Zobrist because he did many things well. From 2009 to 2014, Zobrist hit .270/.364/.437 while playing good defense at second base, shortstop, and right field. He was also a good base runner. Over this six-year stretch, he averaged 5.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), according to Fangraphs. He also regularly played around 150 games per year.
This year, Zobrist continued to hit well but was injured and saw his defense suffer. He started the year with the Oakland Athletics, but missed a month at the end of April and most of May to a knee injury. He was traded to the Royals right before the trade deadline. With Alex Gordon out with an injury, Zobrist regularly played left field. When Gordon got healthy, Zobrist shifted to second base.
Zobrist is a Midwest boy, having been born and raised in Eureka, Illinois. When he was a kid, he and his friends built their own wiffle ball field behind his house. He graduated from Eureka high school without attracting any attention from pro scouts or college recruiters and thought his baseball playing days were over. He planned to attend Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, Missouri, but he played in a high school senior showcase event and was given an offer to play baseball at Olivet Nazarene University, where he pitched and played shortstop and second base. Before his senior year, he transferred to Dallas Baptist University.
After college, Zobrist was drafted in the sixth round of the 2004 MLB draft by the Houston Astros. He was traded to the Devil Rays in July of 2006. In 1190 major league games, Zobrist has a career .265/.355/.431 batting line, with a 118 wRC+,meaning he has been 18% better than league average as a hitter.
Zobrist is married to Christian singer Julianna Zobrist and has two children, Zion and Kruse. The family lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Looking at historical data, winning the first game of the series puts the Royals in the driver’s seat. When home teams have won the first game of a seven-game World Series, they have won Game Two 59% of the time and gone on to win the series 68% of the time.