The Subway Series between the Mets and Yankees is always fun, but this time – finally – both teams come in with more on the line than bragging rights.
The latest installment of the Subway Series begins tonight at Yankee Stadium as the Mets come across town to face their in-city rivals, and as it turns out, it may be the best edition in recent memories. The Mets come into the series sporting baseball’s best record and an 11-game winning streak in tow. Meanwhile, the Yankees are coming off three wins in four games against the mighty Detroit Tigers, and have climbed into an early three-way tie atop the AL East with a 9-7 record.
The Mets’ winning ways have been well-documented. After a perfect 10-0 homestand, all against division foes. With their best start since their 1986 World Series team, hopes and expectations are higher in Flushing than they’ve been in nearly a decade, and for good reason.
After preseason injuries to Josh Edgin and Zack Wheeler pumped the brakes on talks of the Mets stellar staff, that staff has been every bit as good as advertised. The Mets sport the National League’s second-best ERA at a tidy 2.81, and have received 12 quality starts in 16 games thus far. Ageless wonder Bartolo Colon has been outstanding, posting an early 4-0 record to go with a 2.77 ERA. Matt Harvey is getting back into his groove and has had no setbacks thus far with his surgically-repaired elbow. Reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom has somehow been even better this season than last.
Even the loss of their closer first to injury, then to an 80-game suspension, the Mets have flourished, with Jeurys Familia stepping into the closer role and dominating it, picking up 8 saves with a 1.86 ERA.
While the pitching was always expected to be good, it’s been the Mets offense that has truly elevated them. The Amazin’s – despite the losses of David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud of late – have scored the second-most runs in the National League and have a respectable .689 team OPS, seventh in the league. The combination of deadly pitching and enough offense to take a lead has brought the Mets from potential-improvement candidate to legit NL East contender in a matter of weeks.
To continue that 11-game win streak, the Mets will have the cross-town Yankees to deal with, and may have their hands full more than we thought as recently as a week ago. New York is 9-7 all of the sudden on the back of six wins in seven games, including three against the Tigers. After playing some truly awful baseball for the season’s first two weeks, the Yankees are looking vastly improved.
Alex Rodriguez of all people has been New York’s most dependable hitter, posting an early .991 OPS to go with four home runs, even if the batting average (.265) isn’t quite there. Mark Teixeira may be below the Mendoza line, but his power swing is coming back and he’s hit five home runs and leads the team in RBI.
The Yankees’ pitching, which many looked at as their achilles heal, has come around as well. After a couple poor starts and concerns about his velocity and pitch selection, Masahiro Tanaka has put up back-to-back gems and has his ERA down to 3.22. Andrew Miller, acquired this offseason, has worked his way into the closer’s role, saving six games. In seven appearances spanning 7.1 innings, Miller has yet to allow an earned run and has 15 strikeouts.
It’s been a while since both teams came into the Subway Series on such a high note. The Mets haven’t been competitive in more than half a decade, and haven’t seen the playoffs since 2006. The Yankees are nowhere near as good as they were even as recently as 2012, but their recent hot streak has them believing this could be the year they end their playoff drought as well.
I wrote before the season that the Mets were taking New York back from the Yankees. The hype was louder, the expectations were loftier, at least in the long-term, and all of the sudden it was Mets who had the marketable stars while the Yankees had become the butt of the city’s jokes. I still think, ultimately, that’s true. But like any young upstart trying to take over the top spot, the only way to truly do it is to go through, not around, the competition. The Mets have a chance to do just that this weekend, and prove once and for all that they’re not only for real this season, but worthy of the full spotlight of the city and its fans. At the same time, the Yankees have a chance to hold them off, at least for a short while longer.
The Subway Series is always a fun one; it’s about time there was something bigger than bragging rights on the line.