By the time David Wright stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first inning of Game Three, the Citi Field inhabitants had plenty of reasons to feel down about the Mets' chances of winning the World Series. In addition to a 2-0 series lead, the Royals had pushed a run across in the top half of the inning, giving them another early advantage. But Wright's at-bat seemingly changed the feel of the game and—depending on how these next few games go—could be credited with altering how the series played out.
The good vibes started after Curtis Granderson led off with a 1-2 single into the shift. Wright then stepped to the plate, armed with the knowledge that Royals starter Yordano Ventura slings mid-to-upper-90s fastballs with the best of them. Sure enough, Ventura threw a 94-mph fastball to begin the sequence, a pitch that Wright fouled off. Ventura and catcher Salvador Perez agreed to go back to the hard stuff—presumably an arrangement they would have kept until Wright proved he could catch up. Unfortunately for Ventura and Perez, Wright interfered with those plans by turning around the next offering, a 96 mph fastball, and sending it over the left-field wall for a two-run home run:
What's the most impressive part of Wright's home run? You might say the symbolism. Wright is, after all, the most identifiable Met, as well as the lone holdover from the 2006 squad that fell in the National League Championship Series. If anyone deserved to spark a Mets' turnaround, it's Wright, who had the double misfortune of being present throughout the lean years and missing much of 2015 due to back issues.
The real answer, though, is that Wright homered on a pitch traveling 96 mph. Before Friday night he'd done so only four times during the PITCHf/x era, with the most recent coming against Craig Kimbrel in 2013. A lot has changed since then. Wright has gotten older, he's been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, and so on. He entered Friday night just 7-for-41 with two-extra base hits on the postseason. You wouldn't have bet on Wright homering because you wouldn't have bet on him doubling, or perhaps even reaching base. It just goes to show, you never know what'll happen in this game.
Wright wasn't finished after the home run. Later on, in the sixth inning, Ned Yost brought in hard-throwing Kelvin Herrera to face Wright with the bases loaded and one out. The Mets were up by three runs at this point, so the stakes were lower than they were in Wright's first at-bat. Still, New York's franchise third baseman delivered by singling on an upper-90s fastball that was up and off the plate inside. It was another impressive display of hitting, since Wright had to pull his hands through in a hurry to get to the pitch:
Wright's single pushed the game into boat-race territory, but that doesn't mean there weren't other highlights (or lowlights) worth mentioning. To wit:
- Throughout the last two seasons, the Royals defense has been one of their biggest strengths. Not so on Friday night. The Royals had a communication mishap at first base in the fourth inning that allowed Michael Conforto to reach (and a run to score), and the sixth inning saw Franklin Morales seemingly look at every base twice before making a poor throw to second that loaded the bases for Wright. These weren't pivotal or game-costing mistakes—the Royals were trailing in each instance—but they were unusual from a defense that is so highly regarded.
- One cool moment that played no real significance in the outcome: Raul A. Mondesi made his major-league debut when he pinch-hit for Danny Duffy in the fifth inning. The timing was odd—the Royals trailed by two and had the top of their order coming up—but how often do you get to see a 20-year-old take his first big-league swings in the World Series?
- One cool moment that did play significance in the outcome: Noah Syndergaard notching a base hit. Ventura had gotten ahead 0-2 behind a pair of fastballs, but decided to get cute and throw a breaking ball. The pitch stayed up, and Syndergaard rapped it into right field. He'd then score on a two-run shot by Granderson that re-gave the Mets the lead.
- Juan Uribe made his triumphant return to the Mets' active roster by singling and plating a run in a pinch-hit assignment. Uribe had missed the first two rounds of the playoffs after suffering a chest contusion late in the regular season. If nothing else, consider his appearance a positive sign that he won't need to be replaced before the series ends—a scenario that many feared would be the case entering the series.