The New York Mets didn’t want to leave any doubt in the minds of the casual fans. An 8-3 thrashing in Game 4 on Wednesday and a sweep of the Chicago Cubs meant they secured their place as the best team in the National League and a spot in the World Series.

Things haven’t been quite as cut-and-dry in the American League, with the Kansas City Royals holding a 3-2 lead on a Toronto Blue Jays team that got a big performance from its bats at exactly the right moment in Game 5.

But with only two games at most remaining in the American League Championship Series, the World Series is nearly upon us—which means it is time to start previewing the Fall Classic and what it will take to bring home the crown.

Let’s take a look at the remaining schedule for the playoffs and preview which players will have an impact on the final outcome of the World Series.


Players Who Will Decide World Series

Mets 2B Daniel Murphy

Has anyone ruled out the theory that Daniel Murphy is a wizard? Until there is substantial evidence to the contrary, I’m not willing to ignore the chance that the Mets second baseman is a practitioner of the Dark Arts.

Murphy finished the regular season with 14 home runs to his name—not a bad number among second baseman but not exactly the type of stats that would hint at what he has done in the postseason. Going yard seven times and in each of his last six games, the 30-year-old is playing like the best player in baseball heading into the World Series.

It would be fair to assume that Murphy is bound to come back to earth at some point in the near future, but seeing as he is already in uncharted territory in terms of baseball history, predicting anything for him would be folly.

The Mets have become the most exciting team in baseball in recent weeks and after completing a sweep of the Cubs are a step closer to securing the franchise’s first title since 1986, in large part thanks to Murphy.

Whoever wins the ALCS—the Royals lead the Blue Jays 3-2 heading into Friday’s Game 6 in Kansas City, Missouri—will have to be wary of Murphy now or risk watching the ball sail into the stands every night.


Royals P Johnny Cueto

As stated above, the Royals carry a 3-2 lead into Game 6—the first of two games at home—and look like the likelier of the two teams to advance to the World Series, even with the hitting the Blue Jays bring to the plate.

Brought in by the Royals at the trade deadline this season from the Cincinnati Reds, Johnny Cueto was the big-name pitcher Kansas City wanted as it became clearer and clearer that a second straight shot at the World Series was in the cards.

Since coming to Kansas City, though, Cueto has been less than consistent, recording a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts with the team in the regular season. Since the playoffs started, things have gotten even worse, with a 7.88 ERA masking an incredible performance in Game 5 against the Houston Astros.

When Cueto is on, he is still one of the best pitchers in the league and has the ability to shut down any lineup, but when he isn’t, having a stellar day in can be brutal—just ask the Blue Jays to whom Cueto gave up eight earned runs in two innings pitched.

The ALCS schedule has Cueto set to pitch in Game 7 against the Blue Jays should it be necessary, meaning even if the Royals don’t make the World Series, it will be partially on their ace pitcher. But if Game 6 does go in favor of Kansas City, Cueto will likely get the Game 1 start against New York and could set the tone for the series to come.


Mets P’s Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey

It doesn’t seem entirely fair to lump the Mets’ three young elite pitchers together—to say nothing of leaving out rookie Steven Matz, who has only started nine games in his career in the majors—but should the Mets win the World Series this year, it will be hard to separate 27-year-old second-year Jacob deGrom, 23-year-old rookie Noah Syndergaard and 26-year-old third-year Matt Harvey.

The Mets have been carried by their core of young pitchers this season in that trio, and even with the offensive explosion, not much has changed since the calendar turned to October.

The three have combined for eight starts in the postseason, allowing 12 total runs among them with the Mets, and won all but one of the games they have started, a 5-2 Game 2 defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series.

While Murphy is busy hitting an unbelievable amount of home runs for the Mets and stealing all the headlines, the pitchers have been going about their business like nothing has changed from the regular season, and that is all New York can ask of them.

This is a group of three pitchers—who are incredibly inexperienced—had never been to the playoffs before this season and are pitching like some of baseball’s greatest historical rotations. Whichever team emerges from the ALCS has a tough task on its hands in figuring out how to beat these pitchers. No one else has done it so far, so odds aren’t in the Royals’ or Blue Jays’ favor.

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