World Series Reset: Is Game 3 a “must-win?” No. But the Mets REALLY gotta win.


NEW YORK — After Game 2 on Wednesday night there was a TV reporter shoving his microphone in the faces of Mets players asking “is Game 3 a must-win?” It was pretty funny.

Partially because, as many Mets’ players said, this is a best-of-seven series so, technically, there are not “must-wins” until the other team has three. That’s just math. It was more broadly funny because the TV reporter didn’t seem to care about how Mets players answered it as much as he really, really wanted someone — anyone — to say “this is a must-win” because he or his producer had likely already created a spiffy little graphic to that effect and wanted video of someone saying it to slot into a predetermined package for a later newscast. This, by the way, is how a great, great deal of postgame interview questions go. There is something of an obvious formula to it all.

But . . . don’t the Mets kinda have to win this? At least practically speaking? We’ve spent two days repeating the stats about teams which go down 2-0 in the World Series, but if the Royals beat ’em again we’re gonna hear about what happens when a team is down 3-0 all Friday night and all day Saturday. Specifically, that no team has ever come back from that. At least in the World Series, and that the only team which has done it period is the 2004 Red Sox in the ALCS. If you want to get mathy about it, figure, at best, the Mets down 3-0 would have a 94% chance of losing this thing.

So, no, it’s not a must-win game tonight for the Mets because three wins does not a World Series make. And no matter what happens on the field this evening, the Mets will be back to play again tomorrow. But they really, really, really need to win it in order to prevent everyone from repeating that stuff about what happens to teams which are down 3-0.

The Game:  Kansas City Royals vs. New York Mets
The Time: 8:07 PM Eastern.
The Place: Citi Field
The Channel: Fox
The Starters: Yordano Ventura vs. Noah Syndergaard
The Upshot: It’s really hard to give a fresh upshot at this point because this series has been going pretty according to the script. Not the Mets losing part — a lot of people, this writer included, picked the Mets to win — but the “how the Royals can win it” part. They were lauded as a team that makes great contact and matches up well against fastball pitchers and they’ve been making great contact against the Mets great fastball pitchers. Concerns about the Mets included (a) the offense cooling off; and (b) possible fatigue after a longer-than-expected season for their young starters. What has happened? The offense has been cold and the starters, if not fatigued, have certainly not had their best stuff in Games 1 and 2.

So once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

For as tired as we may be of the narrative framing of this series, Noah Syndergaard’s fastball is something to behold, averaging 97.1 m.p.h., which is tops in the bigs among starters this year. But Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey have plus fastballs too and that didn’t faze the Royals. The key tonight will be Syndergaard’s secondary stuff. His slider and changeup but, more than anything else, that curveball of his. If, like deGrom and his slider, Syndergaard doesn’t have his best secondary stuff, the Royals will sit dead-red and pick him apart. If, on the other hand, the breaking and offspeed stuff is looking sharp early, we might actually get a ballgame here.

For the Royals it’s Yordano Ventura who, for all that can be said about Syndergaard, possessed the third-fastest fastball among starters this year. There’s a sense that he’s a guy who can be easily rattled so if he gets in trouble early expect the crowd to be on him like crazy, but Ventura knows from big games by now. The bigger question is whether he can give the Royals six innings in order to make the bullpen plan a bit more clear for old Ned Yost. He has yet to do that in the playoffs, going two innings in his first outing against the Astros and no more than five and a third in the other three. Of course the Royals have nonetheless won three of his four playoff starts, so Ventura doesn’t have to pull a Johnny Cueto in order for the Royals to win. Indeed, because of the day off and what Cueto did the other night, the Yost can look to get more out of Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis than he usually does.

It’s not a must-win for the Mets tonight. Not technically, anyway. And if they lose tonight, it’s not completely dark yet. But it’ll be getting there.

Jacob deGrom, oft-injured Rangers ace, to have season-ending right elbow surgery

rangers degrom
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers signed Jacob deGrom to a $185 million, five-year deal in free agency last winter hoping the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner could help them get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and make a push toward winning a World Series.

They also knew the risks, with the pitcher coming off two injury-plagued seasons with the New York Mets.

Even with deGrom sidelined since late April, the AL West-leading Rangers are off to the best start in franchise history – but now will be without their prized acquisition until at least next year. The team said Tuesday that deGrom will have season-ending surgery next week to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

“We’ve got a special group here and to not be able to be out there and help them win, that stinks,” deGrom said, pausing several times with tears in his eyes. “Wanting to be out there and helping the team, it’s a disappointment.”

General manager Chris Young said Tuesday the decision on surgery came after an MRI on deGrom’s ailing right elbow, but the extent of what is required might not be determined until the operation is performed next week.

Tommy John surgery, in which the damaged ligament is replaced, is often needed to fix a torn UCL, but Young and the Rangers didn’t go as far as saying the pitcher would have that particular procedure. After being drafted by the New York Mets in 2010, deGrom made six starts in the minors that summer before needing Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2011, three years before his big league debut.

DeGrom last pitched April 28 against the New York Yankees, when he exited early because of injury concerns for the second time in a span of three starts. The announcement about surgery came a day after deGrom was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

Young said the latest MRI showed more inflammation and significant structural damage in the ligament that wasn’t there on the scan after deGrom left the game against the Yankees.

“The results of that MRI show that we have not made progress. And in fact, we’ve identified some damage to the ligament,” Young said. “It’s obviously a tough blow for Jacob, for certainly the Rangers. But we do feel this is what is right for Jacob in his career. We’re confident he’ll make a full recovery.”

Young and deGrom, who turns 35 later this month, said the goal is for the pitcher to return near the end of next season. Both said they were glad to have clarity on what was wrong with the elbow.

Texas won all six games started by deGrom (2-0), but the right-hander threw only 30 1/3 innings. He has a 2.67 ERA with 45 strikeouts and four walks. He threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees in his last start before leaving because of discomfort in his arm.

The Rangers went into Tuesday night’s game against St. Louis with a 39-20 record, the first time they were 19 games over .500 since the end of 2016, their last winning season.

Before going home to Florida over the weekend for the birth of his third child, deGrom threw his fifth bullpen last Wednesday in Detroit.

“I’d have days where I’d feel really good, days where I didn’t feel great. So I was kind of riding a roller coaster there for a little bit,” deGrom said. “They said originally there, we just saw some inflammation. … Getting an MRI right after you pitch, I feel like anybody would have inflammation. So, you know, I was hoping that that would get out of there and I would be fine. But it just didn’t work out that way.”

DeGrom spent his first nine big league seasons with the Mets, but was limited by injuries to 156 1/3 innings over 26 starts during his last two years in New York.

He had a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021 before missing the final three months of the season with right forearm tightness and a sprained elbow.

The four-time All-Star didn’t make his first big league start last year until Aug. 2 after being shut down late in spring training because of a stress reaction in his right scapula.

His latest injury almost surely will trigger Texas’ conditional option on deGrom’s contract for 2028.

The option takes effect if deGrom has Tommy John surgery on his right elbow from 2023-26 or has any right elbow or shoulder injury that causes him to be on the IL for any period of 130 consecutive days during any season or 186 days in a row during any service period.

The conditional option would be for $20 million, $30 million or $37 million, depending on deGrom’s performance during the contract and health following the 2027 season.

“I feel bad for Jake. If I know Jake, he’ll have the surgery and come back and finish his career strong,” second-year Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “I know how much it means to him. He enjoys pitching. It’s certainly sad news for all of us.”