by Stool solidification
Fox Sports MLB writer
New York – Last time the Yankees and Mets Faced with that, less than a month ago at Citi Field, a Subway World Series seemed possible, perhaps even inevitable.
The Yankees entered Queens with the best winning percentage (.680) in baseball. The Mets rose to the occasion and extended their division lead in the finals by sweeping the Yankees in two games behind seven scoreless innings by Max Scherzer.
Since then, the disco ball has been gathering dust in the Yankees clubhouse. One should also check their locker room smoke machine and strobe lights, as it has been weeks since it was put into regular use.
The Yankees went 5-15 in their past 20 games entering Monday, spiraling into an incredible free fall while still managing to hold onto their lead in the AL East, the Mets going 14-6 over that same stretch. Since the Mets swept the Yankees in Flushing, the Yankees have the second-worst record in the American League. The Mets were consistent during that span, winning five of their last six series and looking more and more like a team capable of neutralizing the mighty Dodgers.
Mark Canha hit two homers in the Mets’ comeback win
Mark Canha hit two home runs and drove in five runs in the Mets’ 10-9 comeback win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.
Make no mistake: Entering the second and final Subway Series of 2022, the stories surrounding these crosstown rivals couldn’t be more contrasting. The Yankees are routinely booed by their frustrated and impatient fan base. The Mets, despite the injuries, are taking care of business behind two of the best pitchers in the game.
But this Subway Series, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in the Bronx, could give the Yankees just the jolt they need right now. Crowd selling. Playoff environment. Bragging rights of New York. Pennant race.
With so much on the line, let’s take a look at how the Yankees and Mets compare heading into the interleague matchup.
It’s a no-brainer. The Mets boast a top of the rotation that is performing best in baseball. The trio of Jacob deGrom, Scherzer and Chris Bassitt has recorded a 1.77 ERA (15 earned runs, 76.1 innings pitched) in 12 starts in August. By comparison, new Yankees right-hander Frankie Montas has allowed 14 earned runs in three starts since being acquired from Oakland.
Gerrit Cole struggled again on Saturday against the Blue Jays, allowing four runs in the fifth inning, undermining the otherwise positive progress he’s made in recent outings. The Yankees’ ace has a 3.41 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 26 starts in what could be an erratic season. On the plus side, Nestor Cortes is flashing a 2.74 ERA in his All-Star season.
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In the bigger picture, the Mets were without Scherzer and deGrom for a significant portion of the season while the Yankees were rotating pitchers. This led to an overall difference between the two initial staffs; The Mets have a 3.89 ERA, eighth among starters in baseball, while the Yankees are right behind them with a 3.91 ERA, which ranks 10th.
The result is that the Mets’ rotation has been more consistently dominant, so Amazin earns the edge here.
The Yankees offense has been invisible for several weeks now. After the All-Star break, Yankees hitters have a 101 wRC+, which ranks 17th in the majors.
So far, August has been their worst month offensively. The Yankees have been shutout five times and have scored just 17 runs in their past eight games — including the eight they scored against the Rays in Wednesday’s wild comeback win. Slugger Aaron Judge also hasn’t hit a home run in nine straight games, his longest homerless streak of the season.
Much of that offensive regression has to do with the absences of Giancarlo Stanton (Achilles tendinitis) and Matt Carpenter (broken leg). Stanton began a rehab assignment this weekend and will return to the lineup in less than a week, while Carpenter has yet to resume baseball activities.
But every team deals with injuries to key players during a long season, and Yankees manager Aaron Boone said lineup absences are no excuse for the team’s lackluster play.
“We’ve got to hold on right now,” Boone said Friday after the Yankees were shut out again. “We’re a really good team, and it’s been a long time where it’s been an extended period of struggle. We need to do better.”
What’s wrong with the Yankees?
Ben Verlander looks at MLB’s latest hot topics, including the Yankees’ continued struggles in August and what manager Aaron Boone had to say after another shutout.
What do the Mets do? They grind out at-bats, pissing off the opposing starter in the process and eventually getting on base as often as possible. Hitting coach Eric Chavez’s relentless approach to at-bats has helped the Mets lead the majors on pitches seen in the first inning. They also lead the majors in on-base percentage (.341) and are in the top five in most offensive categories — except slugging.
Except for Pete Alonso, who has hit 30 home runs, the Amazons don’t slug it out. They have the second-lowest strikeout rate in baseball, and they make a ton of ground-ball contact, which accounts for their MLB-leading 115 infield hits. As manager Buck Showalter said of his offense, the Mets have an “unselfish lineup” that excels at keeping hitters disciplined at the plate and balls in play. This somewhat old-school approach has worked well all season.
It will be very surprising if the Yankees stay this lifeless at the plate for much longer. While the Bronx Bombers are clicking on all cylinders, as they were earlier in the season, they have more power than the Mets and are one of the best hitting teams in baseball.
But the Mets made improvements at the trade deadline by acquiring slugger Daniel Vogelbach and platoon hitters Darrin Roof and Tyler Naquin to become a more complete club, and now, they have an advantage over a sleepy Yankees lineup.
The Yankees’ bullpen has been weakened by injuries to Clay Holmes, who is dealing with back spasms, and Michael King, who underwent elbow surgery in late July. Aside from the Yankees’ offensive woes, their bullpen is another troubling area of concern, mainly because of those injuries but also because former closer Aroldis Chapman has been inconsistent.
There’s still time for newcomers Lou Trivino and Scott Afros to earn regular, high-profit roles in the relief corps. But the strength of the Yankees bullpen as currently constructed is questionable for the postseason.
Still, the Yankees have the advantage over the Mets in this department. It might be hard to believe, given Mets closer Edwin Diaz’s garbage season (1.46 ERA, 0.89 WHIP), but everyone not named Diaz has been unpredictable for the Mets’ relief corps.
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Seth Lugo has had his moments this year but hasn’t been consistently effective since 2019. Adam Ottavino and his 2.25 ERA in 49 games are amazin’ important, but he’s more efficient in low-leverage spots than high games. Right-handed reliever Michal Givens, acquired from the Cubs at the trade deadline, has allowed nine earned runs in 7.2 fewer innings since joining the Mets.
Combine that instability with Mets GM Billy Eppler’s failure to improve the bullpen before the long-delayed trade deadline, and the bridge from deGrom to Diaz is sketchy at best. Over the course of the season, the Yankees’ bullpen unit has been outstanding. Yankees relievers have the fourth-best bullpen ERA in MLB, while Mets relievers rank ninth.
Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets for three and a half seasons as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Disha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. He never misses a Rafael Nadal match, no matter what country or time zone he is playing in. Follow her on Twitter @Deshthasar.
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