The very same pitching that has propelled the New York Mets into the 2015 World Series came through Cashman Field first. Postseason stars Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz all spent time on the Las Vegas 51s, the Triple-A affiliate of the Mets.
In two series against the playoff-experienced Los Angeles Dodgers and the home run-happy Chicago Cubs, this trio, with an average age of 24 years and no playoff experience, combined to post a 4-2 record, 55 strikeouts and a 2.77 ERA over 42.2 innings pitched. Those four victories account for more than half of the seven wins needed to advance to the World Series.
In addition to playing in Las Vegas, another thing all of these pitchers have in common is Mets’ catcher Travis d’Arnaud, arguably one of the best catching prospects in the league when he and Syndergaard were traded to the Mets from the Toronto Blue Jays for R.A. Dickey, the then Mets’ Cy Young Award-winning pitcher in 2012.
“d’Arnaud is such a calming presence for these young pitchers, he is often overlooked,” says Keith Hernandez, former Mets first baseman and now one of the team’s current broadcasters. d’Arnaud caught for the 51s as a member of the Blue Jays in 2012 and as a member of the Mets, when the 51s’ major league affiliate changed from Toronto to New York. A fan favorite when he was in Las Vegas, d’Arnaud has served multiple rehab stints with the team since his major league call-up in 2014 and has recently been receiving much deserved praise for his ability to frame pitches and steal strikes. d’Arnaud has also contributed three home runs so far this postseason as the Mets’ starting catcher.
All of these young pitchers also have had the luxury of learning from a former American League Cy Young award-winner, World Series champion and World Series MVP in Frank Viola, the current Las Vegas 51s’ pitching coach.
In an interview with Vegas Seven earlier this year, Viola said players grow through tough challenges presented by playing in Las Vegas and the Pacific Coast League. “A lot of these guys have never struggled, [such as] Noah Syndergaard last year. Up until last year, everything was easy for him. He didn’t pitch bad, but he didn’t pitch like Noah Syndergaard was supposed to and all the expectations were like, ‘Oh, my God, he’s not the real deal …’ Well guess what, he is, he was just learning that you have to go through some stuff. It takes time to learn. “
Although Matt Harvey, who never played for the 51s, will start Game 1 for the Mets on the road in Kansas City, deGrom will take the mound for Game 2, Syndergaard for Game 3 and Matz for Game 4—each providing a decidedly Las Vegas flavor to the Fall Classic.