By Brad Carroll
This latest installment of the Subway Series could feature the best matchup since the New York Mets and New York Yankees played in the 2000 World Series. In fact, the Mets might even be better now than they were back then. The Yankees might have been at their peak during that former title run, but this current group is beyond hot, winning six of seven and taking three of four from the Detroit Tigers, who were baseball's best team before playing the renewed Bronx Bombers.
The Mets are currently baseball's best team, using a three-game sweep over the Atlanta Braves to put together an 11-game win streak and a perfect 10-0 mark at home. The Mets already hold a 4.5-game lead in the NL East and have the major league's best record. The Yankees are tied with the Red Sox for first place in the AL East.
It all sets up what should be the biggest, most-hyped from both sides Subway Series since the two squared off in that Fall Classic 15 years ago. Here is our part of the hype, an in-depth breakdown of the three-game series starting Friday night.
New York Mets (13-3, 1st place NL East)
at New York Yankees (9-7, 1st place AL East)
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
Jacob deGrom (2-1, 0.93) vs. Michael Pineda (2-0, 5.00)
Saturday, 4:05 p.m.
Matt Harvey (3-0, 3.50) vs. CC Sabathia (0-3, 4.35)
Sunday, 8 p.m.
Jonathon Niese (2-0, 1.50) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 3.12)
Who doesn't have it entering this series? The Mets haven't lost a game since April 11, putting together an 11-game win streak since then. They've swept the Phillies, Marlins and Braves to start the year a perfect 10-0 at home. The Mets have 13 wins on the year, three more than the next highest total in the NL (Padres) and two more than the most in the AL (Royals, Tigers). The Yankees have a relatively modest three-game win streak, but have won six of their last seven, sweeping three against the Rays and then taking three of four from the Tigers, who held baseball's best record prior to the series. Even the game the Yankees lost, a 2-1 defeat, Sabathia pitched a complete game. The Subway Series couldn't feature two hotter teams right now.
Three Mets Storylines
1. The obvious: Can the Mets continue their winning ways heading into Yankee Stadium? This could be the series that either propels the Mets to even bigger heights the organization and fan base hasn't seen in a very long time, or it could be a depressing wake-up call if they lose everything they've gained over this epic start against their big brothers in the Bronx. The Mets don't have to sweep the series for it to be considered a success, but questions will start to seep in if the Yankees take two of three, or worse, sweep the Mets out of the building. It's completely unfair to think that way, but that's how things go over the long course of a 162-game season. If the Mets sweep, watch out, because this will be the start of a very big summer in Queens.
2. If Daniel Murphy officially broke out of his season-long slump in the finale against the Braves, the Mets just got that much better. Murphy was batting .140 with just five RBI in 15 games, but had a breakout game Thursday afternoon, going 2-for-3 with a double, walk and four RBI. He's now batting .170 with three doubles, a home run and nine RBI in 16 games this season. The Mets need Murphy to get hot at the plate, as they are dealing with a rash of injuries, and this could prove to be the start of a hot streak.
3. It's the new guard against the old Saturday, as Harvey takes the mound for the Mets against Sabathia, formerly best pitcher in New York. It does, however, have the makings for a tremendous matchup. Harvey is 3-0 with a 3.50 ERA. Sabathia is 0-3 with a 4.35 ERA, but he did pitch a complete game against the Tigers Monday, allowing two runs over eight innings. He took the hard-luck loss. The pitching matchup represents what the current state of New York baseball is, with the Mets having the young, exciting team that has captivated the league so far, against the older guard of the Yankees, trying to put together another playoff run before they collectively fall apart. Can Harvey carry the flag for the Mets taking over New York?
Three Yankees Storylines
1. The obvious: Can the Yankees be the team to stop the Mets' 11-game win streak at the Stadium? Not only do the Yankees have the opportunity to make a statement by winning their second straight series against the best team in baseball, they can do so by knocking the cross-town rival Mets down a peg or two. Right now, the Mets are taking over the New York baseball stage from the Yankees, but if the Yankees win this series, they and their fans can always hold that over the boys in Queens. Both teams could survive losing the series, but the Yankees could have huge bragging rights if they can send the Mets away as cold as the weather was Thursday in New York.
2. The Yankees need their older players to deliver, and so far, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have done so. A-Rod obviously has been the best player on the team, hitting .265 with three doubles, four homers and 11 RBI, and has received a ton of praise early on. But Teixeira is starting to deliver some much-needed power numbers as well. Teixeira, who is batting just .196, has found pop in his bat once again, hitting four doubles, five home runs and 13 RBI. He leads the team in both homers and RBI. If Teixeira and Rodriguez get their averages up, the Yankees are that much better an offense. And, remember, A-Rod is just two home runs shy of Willie Mays.
3. Not everything is going right for the Yankees. Carlos Beltran has been an albatross of a free agency signing, receiving a foolish three-year, $45 million contract before last season, which we should add is first-guessing, not second. He was horrible last year and has been even worse this season. Against the Tigers Thursday, returning to his regular three-hole in the lineup with Rodriguez taking a breather, Beltran came up with two men on in third inning and promptly struck out. He came up with a runner on third in the sixth inning, and again, struck out. Beltran is batting .184 overall. If he continues to fail at the plate, especially if manager Joe Girardi bats him third, the Yankees are going to lose games because of it. We'll see if playing his old team sparks something in his bat.
The Mets stay on the road with three games against the Marlins, starting Monday night. The Yankees remain home for three games against the Tampa Bay Rays, starting Monday night.