NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Mets climbed back into the World Series with a crucial 9-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals at a jubilant Citi Field on Friday.
Lifted by the roars of the home crowd, a pair of two-run home runs, and gritty pitching by rookie Noah Syndergaard, the Mets narrowed the deficit in the best-of-seven ‘Fall Classic’ to 2-1.
Mets manager Terry Collins said it had been vital his team avoided going 3-0 down, a deficit no club has overcome to win a World Series.
“Sure, when you get down 3-0 it’s really difficult,” said Collins. “I just thought it was a real big game for us.”
Captain David Wright blasted a homer in the bottom of the first off Yordano Ventura to give New York a 2-1 lead, and after the Royals scored two runs in the second, Curtis Granderson hit a shot over the right-field fence in the third for a 4-3 lead.
A four-run outburst in the sixth, helped along by some sloppy Royals fielding, put the game out of reach as Wright broke out of a postseason slump by going 2-for-5 with four runs batted in.
Fireballer Syndergaard settled down after yielding six hits in the first two frames to pitch six innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with six strikeouts.
The Mets, the National League champions, will try to square the series in Game Four in New York on Saturday.
The home team set the tone on the first pitch of the game.
Syndergaard fired a 98-mph fastball high and inside to Alcides Escober, who has feasted on first-pitch fastballs, that dropped him to the dirt and triggered angry barking from the Royals’ dugout.
“I feel like it really made a statement to start the game off, that you guys can’t dig in and get too aggressive because I’ll come in there,” the big Texan said.
“My intent on that pitch was to make them uncomfortable, and I feel like I did just that.”
Syndergaard went on to strike out Escobar with a 99-mph blazer, the first swing and miss at a fastball since Game One by Kansas City, who were the best team in Major League Baseball at hitting high-velocity fastballs.
Still, the Royals were not cowed.
Ben Zobrist followed by smacking a double off the centerfield wall, moved to third on an infield roller that eluded Syndergaard for a hit and scored on Eric Hosmer’s grounder.
After the see-saw scoring in the early innings, Granderson’s two-run shot gave the Mets the lead for good as New York went on to collect 12 hits to Kansas City’s seven.
“The big thing early on, even though they scored runs we knew we had opportunities,” Granderson said. “We were starting to get to the starting pitcher there.”
Royals manager Ned Yost said Ventura, one of the hardest throwers in the American League, was far from his best.
“He just wasn’t sharp today,” Yost said. “Fastball velocity was down. Made a couple mistakes. Made a mistake in the first inning with Wright on a fastball up. The backup slider to Granderson.
“It was just one of those days.”
Syndergaard, whose pounding fastball and long blond locks have brought him the nickname “Thor”, retired 12 batters in a row before running into trouble in the sixth on an infield single and a pair of walks that loaded the bases.
But with the tying run on second, Syndergaard got Alex Rios to ground out to short to end the threat and keep the Mets’ hopes alive.
Editing by Peter Rutherford