Coming off one of the worst losses of the season and a rainout, the Yankees are not quite where they want to be coming into the first Subway Series of the season. To add insult to injury, the Other New York Team is currently sitting in first place in the NL East, three games ahead of the Washington Nationals. Standings aside, the Mets and the Yankees have had some interesting parallels in the 2021 season, including floundering offenses, great performances from ace pitchers, and a litany of injuries.
The Yankees are hoping to capitalize on the Mets’ relative weakness on the road, where they’re just 17-25this year, and are lucky to miss Jacob deGrom’s turn in the rotation this weekend.
After deliberating on how to make this trade work for both sides, I also realized that the Mets actually make for a pretty nice trade partner with the Yankees. At least, from the Yankees’ perspective. The Mets have a ton of left-handed hitters that the Yankees could use to balance out the lineup. Aside from Canó, there’s Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, and Jeff McNeil. Whether or not the Mets are willing to move any of those players is another story, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. Considering the ownership transition and likely front office shakeup over in Queens, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume a lot of player changes could come too.
In the past, making a deal with the Mets for a significant player wasn’t worth thinking about. The trade history between both sides is incredibly limited, especially since the Wilpons took control of the Mets in 2002. A few minor trades have snuck through, but nothing really consequential. What’s more: there was bickering between both front offices about separate trades in 2017. Jay Bruce and Neil Walker were nearly sent from Queens to the Bronx. But now, with Steve Cohen presumably getting approval in the coming weeks, things could change.
The Subway Series is here. Five games in three days, all at Yankee Stadium although the Mets will be the home team for a couple. The doubleheaders tonight and Sunday will include one game a piece that the Mets will have last licks. Those games are makeups of last weekend’s COVID-19 postponements. The other makeup game is scheduled for September 3rd at Citi Field. Let’s take a look at how the Yankees’ crosstown rivals are doing in 2020.
Their story so far
The Amazin’s are 13-16 entering this series. They just dropped two of three to the second place Marlins at Citi Field in the team’s first action since last weekend’s games were postponed due to COVID-19 positives on the roster. The Mets and Marlins were scheduled to play a fourth game yesterday, but both teams walked off in protest.
Typical Mets PR fiasco aside, let’s circle back to what’s going on for the team on the field. Even with the losing record and negative run differential (-13), the Mets aren’t far out of a playoff spot. They’re two games behind the Marlins (remember, every divisional second place team makes the playoffs). In the Wild Card hunt, they’re just a half game behind Philadelphia. The Rockies (16-15) and Phillies (12-14) are the two Wild Card teams at the moment. The Yanks’ crosstown rivals have a 50-50 chance at a postseason berth, per Baseball Prospectus.
The Mets’ calling card has been its offense this season. That’s somewhat surprisingly considering that it’s without Pete Alonso or Jeff McNeil hitting like their true selves yet. The team has a .266/.356/.435 (120 wRC+) batting line thus far. That wRC+ mark is second-best in baseball. Oddly enough, the Mets haven’t hit for much power. They’re 20th in MLB in home runs and isolated power.
Things get dicey when you look at the Mets’ pitching staff. The starting rotation has a 5.06 ERA, 8th-worst in the league. Keep in mind that mark is propped up by 35 innings of 1.80 ERA ball from Jacob deGrom. The bullpen has been a little better (4.67 ERA, 14th-worst). However, it is one of 12 teams with a negative win probability added.
C Tomás Nido (Undisclosed)
C René Rivera (Hyperextended elbow)
SS Andrés Giménez (Undisclosed)
INF Jed Lowrie (Knee discomfort)
INF Eduardo Núñez (Knee contusion)
OF Jake Marisnick (Strained hamstring)
LHP David Peterson (shoulder fatigue)
RHP Noah Syndergaard (Tommy John surgery)
Spotlight: Dellin Betances
It feels extremely wrong to see Dellin Betances in another uniform. The Mets signed the longtime Yankees’ relief ace to a one-year incentive-laden contract with player options for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Betances was coming off downright unlucky 2019 health-wise, which ended with a partial tear of his achilles in his first game all season after dealing with shoulder trouble.
Betances had nothing short of a terrific career in (Yankees) pinstripes. He recorded a 2.36 ERA, 2.31 FIP, and a ridiculous 40.1 percent strikeout rate in 381 2/3 innings. He was arguably the best reliever in baseball from 2014 and onward. But the Yankees seemingly had no interest in bringing him back, whether it was because of last year’s injuries or lingering animosity. Hell, maybe Dellin didn’t want to return because of Randy Levine. Who could blame him?
Anyway, the Mets bet on Betances hasn’t really paid off (yet). He’s pitched in 11 games (9 innings) and owns a 6.00 ERA. He’s walked 5 batters and struck out only 7. Betances has actually only had two outings in which he’s allowed a run, but he’s clearly not been his dominant old self. A big part of the problem is fastball velocity, which simply hasn’t increased as the season’s gone on.
Dellin’s average fastball velocity is 93.2 MPH this year, a far cry from his heyday when he sat 98. His breaking ball is still absolutely filthy, and he does go to it more often than not (53.1 percent). But without that blazing fastball in the back of hitters’ minds, his breaking ball isn’t quite as devastating. Betances’ hardest-thrown fastball this season is 94.8 on the gun.
Betances still has half the season remaining to regain some of his lost velocity. He historically has been a guy who builds up his velocity after the first month or so anyway. Unfortunately for him, he’s running out of time unlike a traditional 162 game campaign. I’d have to imagine that means Dellin will be back with the Mets next year. He’s got a $6 million player option for 2021, though it’s really a $3 million decision as he would receive a $3 million buyout should he opt out. It may be hard for him to get a larger payday without a velocity uptick soon.
Brandon Nimmo, CF (.253/.413/.495, 155 wRC+)
Michael Conforto, RF (.324/.444/.520, 171 wRC+)
J.D. Davis, 3B (.293/.411/.457, 144 wRC+)
Dominic Smith, LF (.315/.402/.699, 190 wRC+)
Robinson Canó, DH (.382/.419/.632, 186 wRC+)
Pete Alonso, 1B (.225/.358/.402, 109 wRC+)
Jeff McNeil, 2B (.267/.341/.320, 90 wRC+)
Wilson Ramos, C (.221/.299/.299, 72 wRC+)
Amed Rosario, SS (.202/.202/.315, 38 wRC+)
On the bench: C Ali Sánchez (-100 wRC+ in 3 PA), INF Luis Guillorme (189 wRC+ in 36 PA), OF Billy Hamilton (-58 wRC+ in 22 PA), and OF Juan Lagares (yet to hit).
This is Wacha’s first start off the injured list (shoulder inflammation). His last start came on August 7th. In 3 starts and 14 innings, Wacha owns a 6.43 ERA and 4.65 FIP.
Monty’s set for his fifth start of the regular season. He comes into this one with a 4.66 ERA and 4.34 FIP in just over 19 innings logged. Last time out, rain cut short a solid outing in which he allowed just one run in 3 2/3.
Later today: TBD vs. TBD
Neither side has announced the pitchers for the nightcap. Have to imagine it’ll be a bullpen game on both sides. It’s quite possible that former starter Robert Gsellman gets the ball for the Mets. He’s opened twice for them this season already. Maybe Jonathan Loaisiga gets the ball for the Yankees as I proposed here.
Tomorrow, 1:05 p.m. EDT: JA Happ (vs. Mets) vs. TBD
Again, no announcement here for the Mets. Could be Gsellman here too.
Unhappy JA Happ will make his fourth start tomorrow afternoon. At this point, it’s going to be next to impossible for him to reach the 10 start or 61 1/3 inning threshold to trigger his vesting option for 2021, though it sounds like he’s gearing up for a grievance. So far this season, he has a 6.39 ERA and 8.68 FIP in 12 2/3 frames. Happ actually pitched a little better in his last start on the 16th: 5 2/3 innings and one run vs. Boston.
Lugo is back as a rotation regular for the first time since 2017. He’s made it clear in the past that he wants to start, and now that the Mets have seen injuries and ineffectiveness pile up, he’s getting his wish. He started against the Marlins in one of the doubleheader games on Tuesday and threw three perfect innings. His ERA stands at 2.03, mostly all in relief of course. He has been the Mets’ best reliever since 2018.
For the Yankees, Schmidt and/or Deivi could go here too.
RHP: Edwin Díaz, Dellin Betances, Brad Brach, Jeurys Familia, Jared Hughes, Corey Oswalt, Walter Lockett
LHP: Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve, Steven Matz
So many ex-Yankees! Dellin, Chasen Shreve, and Justin Wilson were all in pinstripes before, of course. The pen is fresh after not playing yesterday. Only Díaz (13 pitches), Wilson (16), and Brach (17) pitched Wednesday. Familia (23), Shreve (16), Hughes (22), and Oswalt (59) threw on Tuesday.
Under normal circumstances, I’d expect the Yankees to handle the Mets with ease. But this series could be trouble: Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka won’t pitch, leaving the Yankees’ potentially exposed. Especially against an offense as good as the Mets’. On the bright side, the Bombers do avoid Jacob deGrom. Maybe this pitching staff from Queens is just what the Yankees’ bats need to wake up.
The Yankees are back their semester abroad and are welcomed back with another rivalry, this time the Mets.
While the Yankees are 26 games over .500, the Mets come in at 38-47 after losing two of three against the Braves. They’re trying to salvage their season after a prolonged stretch of poor play and blown leads.
Meanwhile, the Bombers have to overcome jet lag and yet another injury as James Paxton tries to avenge his struggles against the Mets from last month.
Here are the lineups:
DJ LeMahieu, 3B
Aaron Judge, RF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Gary Sanchez, C
Didi Gregorius, SS
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Brett Gardner, LF
James Paxton, P
Jeff McNeil, RF
Pete Alonso, 1B
J.D. Davis, LF
Todd Frazier, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Wilson Ramos, C
Michael Conforto, CF
Amed Rosario, SS
Zack Wheeler, P
ICYMI, Luke Voit was placed on the IL and Chance Adams was optioned to Triple-A, with Nestor Cortes and Mike Ford recalled in their places. Aaron Boone said they expect Voit will be back for the first games after the All-Star break.
John Sterling will miss the Rays series, ending a 30-year streak of consecutive games to get rest and get healthy. Feel better soon, John! Ryan Ruocco will call the games in Tampa with Suzyn Waldman in his place.
(Ed Note: This article has been updated to reflect the Mets’ roster moves before Tuesday’s game.)
Undefeated in Europe, the Yankees travel to the faraway land of Queens to face the scuffling Mets.
Their Story Thus Far
The Mets’ playoff hopes have taken a downward spiral since last month’s two-game set in the Bronx. New York’s other team has a 38-47 record going into play Tuesday, the third-worst record in the National League. They are now 12 games back of the Braves in the division and 6.5 back of a playoff spot.
The biggest culprit of crosstown woes lately has been the bullpen. Edwin Diaz had a remarkable meltdown in Philadelphia, bookended by Seth Lugo struggles in Chicago and back home against Atlanta. The first Lugo blown game led to a blowup of another kind with Mickey Callaway and Wednesday starter Jason Vargas verbally abusing a reporter.
The Mets have three All-Stars: Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Jacob deGrom. The Yankees, fortunately, avoid both deGrom and Noah Syndergaard for the second time this season.
Relievers Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson and Luis Avilan could each return this week as they’re all in the middle of rehab assignments. UPDATE: The Mets activated all three of them from the IL right after this was posted.
As for long-term injuries, Yoenis Cespedes and Drew Smith are out for the season while Brandon Nimmo and Jed Lowrie have had multiple setbacks in their attempts to return from neck and leg injuries, respectively.
Supposed to be thunderstorms Tuesday night, so we may have another doubleheader in store.
Player Spotlight: Jeff McNeil
After bursting onto the scene last year as a 26-year-old rookie, McNeil has proven to be no fluke in Year 2. The second baseman/utility man has a .348 batting average to lead the National League and will play in the All-Star Game less than 12 months after his debut.
McNeil is a throwback player in that he puts the bat on the ball constantly. He has walk and strikeout rates of 6.1 and 12.2 percent, respectively, and takes advantage of the spacious confines of Citi Field.
He’s not a fluke, either. He has increased his exit velocity to 89.3 mph this season, up 4.1 mph from 2018, and has an expected batting average also among the league leaders.
The Mets have McNeil playing multiple positions despite his lack of prowess with the glove. With Robinson Cano healthy, he’s mostly relegated to corner-outfield duty.
He went 2-for-5 in both ends of the doubleheader in June, a repeat of his same line from Yankees-Mets last Aug. 17. So can we pencil him in for another 2-for-5?
Jeff McNeil, RF (.348/.412/.509, 148 wRC+)
Pete Alonso, 1B (.278/.372/.627, 159 wRC+)
J.D. Davis, LF (.278/.343/.454, 113 wRC+)
Robinson Cano, 2B (.238/.286/.368, 76 wRC+)
Todd Frazier, 3B (.261/.342/.463, 117 wRC+)
Michael Conforto, CF (.247/.364/.480, 124 wRC+)
Wilson Ramos, C (.270/.343/.414, 102 wRC+)
Amed Rosario, SS (.255/.293/.414, 86 wRC+)
The Met have a five-man bench right now: Backup catcher Tomas Nido (65 wRC+), INF Adeiny Hechavarria (73 wRC+), OF Juan Lagares (60 wRC+) and 1B/OF Dominic Smith (168 wRC+), with INF Luis Guillorme (6 wRC+) receiving a call-up Tuesday. Smith should be in the lineup Wednesday against German.
Tuesday is the matchup of the two pitchers who were shelled in the June 11 doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. Wheeler allowed nine runs (five earned) to the Yankees and surrendered a pair of long home runs.
The right-hander has regained some form in his past two outings, allowing one run each to the Cubs and Phillies. Wheeler has been connected to the Yankees in trade rumors in the past year or so and could be a potential rental option. Therefore, this would ostensibly be an audition if the Mets were actually willing to trade him across town, which doesn’t seem likely.
Still, even as he sports a 4.51 ERA, there are reasons why Brian Cashman would be interested. He throws harder than just about anyone with an average fastball at 96.9 mph, and has above-average spin on both his fastball and rarely-used curveball. He has a fine K-BB ratio and sports a 3.76 FIP, more in line with his 3.31 ERA/3.25 FIP from his 2018 breakout.
Incident with Tim Healey aside, Vargas is having a resurgent season in Queens after pitching to a 5.77 ERA in 2018. The 36-year-old lefty works in the CC Sabathia/Jamie Moyer old man game while featuring the slowest average fastball in the baseball today.
He comes into this game with a 3.66 ERA over 14 games and 66 1/3 innings. His walks are up this season (3.8 per nine innings) but he induces weak contact and has been able to limit opposing hits.
In the June 11 doubleheader, Vargas flumoxed the Yankees outside of one inning en route to a quality start. He hasn’t allowed more than four runs in a start since Apr. 13.
Vargas throws either a fastball or sinker 50 percent of the time, but he throws his 80 mph changeup the most, fitting as its his best pitch year. The southpaw also changes speeds with a slow curveball.
With the Mets’ bullpen, there are a few key names to know. Diaz, as mentioned up top, has gone through a rough patch, but the 25-year-old still has electric stuff at closer. Lugo and fellow right-hander Robert Gsellman are the primary setup men while Wilmer Font may have earned Callaway’s trust with two big innings Sunday.
Outside of them, there are four right-handers: Chris Flexen, Chris Mazza, Stephen Nogosek and Brooks Pounders. Their roles are nebulous as the Mets try to find reliable relievers.
UPDATE: Familia, Wilson and Avilan were actviated for this series, which gives the Mets more veteran arms and the latter two lefties. Furthermore, starter Steven Matz, who had a poor June, will be available out of the bullpen.
Keys to watch:
The Yankees are coming off an unprecedented midseason trip. Luckily, coming back should be the easier part than heading over in terms of time change. Still, if you’re forced to face the Yankees, this is probably the one time you’re glad to see them.
Get to the Mets’ bullpen
The back-end held it together in a win Sunday, but oh boy, these guys have been blowing leads as soon as they’re handed the ball.