Well-rested, New York Mets manager Buck Showalter returned from his All-Star break last week with the post-season on his mind.
“I took my grandchildren to Schwartz at the FAO, it was a mistake,” the 66-year-old told reporters of an expensive trip to the toy store. “I’m going to need some extra money.”
Fortunately, as reward-hungry Showalter points out, “there is a finish line that begins to appear in the distance.”
And this finish line may turn out to be marked.
For all the excitement surrounding the first-place Mets (59-37) ahead of this week’s Subway series, it was the Yankees who stole the New York spotlight by cruising to an MLB best record of 66-31. Now, Tuesdays and Wednesdays matches between intercity rivals are more than just a new game in interleague: they’re a potential preview of the World Championships.
Both groups have reasons for optimism.
Although their team is facing an injury outbreak, the Yankees are equipped with the hottest baseball bat in Aaron Judge, who has an average of 329 and eight runs a month. In that regard, Judge also leads the majors in domestic racing, with a score of 37, and as if that wasn’t enough momentum, the soon-to-be dealer is playing with a new nine-figure contract.
Not to be outdone, the Mets recently recovered one of Cy Young from injury at Max Scherzer, while another, Jacob deGrom, is starting rehab and could be on his way to his first start of the season.
In the meantime, here are five key areas where this week’s Subway series could win or lose:
Having Aaron Judge on the deck on the circuit was one of the scariest sights for bowlers in 2022. The Yankees’ player leads the big leagues with 37 home runs this season.
New York Mets manager Buck Showalter says he needs an extra check
Yankees player acrobat Giancarlo Stanton (left) and Mets game 1 writer Taiguan Walker (right)
New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera jumps into the air after Bernie Williams beat the New York Mets 4-2 in Game Five of the World Series at Shea Stadium in Flushing.
Tyjuan Walker vs. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton: The Mets’ Game 1 hasn’t been nearly dominant this season, posting 2.55 ERA (earned running average) and 1,091 WHIP (walks and hits per run), but it’s been devastating against the right-wingers, who are hitting only. 229 with a .266 OBP (Basic Percentage) against him this season.
The Yankees lineup, as fans have been quick to point out in recent years, is pretty heavy on the right, including Judge and Stanton.
These matches might seem like a potential problem for the Yankees, but both Stanton and Judge managed to get them off the ground in their few encounters with Walker.
The judge is 2 for 7 with a home run against the Louisiana native, while Stanton is 4 for 10 with a home run and a double.
Jordan Montgomery vs. Francisco Lindor: The Mets Shortstop has the most experience against the Subway Yankees series opener, given his MLS history with Cleveland.
Not only did Lindor go out with Montgomery, he hit him hard, going 5-9 with a home run, doubling, and walking twice in 11 board appearances.
Meanwhile, Montgomery is living in the middle of the weird month of July. He did well, collecting 3.13 afternoons for the month while scoring 24 strikes compared to just six walks. But while he was charged with only one defeat during that time, the Yankees failed to win any of their starts this month.
Jordan Montgomery (right) in the midst of the strange month of July. He did well, collecting 3.13 afternoons for the month while scoring 24 strikes compared to just six walks. But while he was charged with only one defeat during that time, the Yankees failed to win any of their starts this month. The Mets shortstop has the most experience against a Yankees ‘1 starter, given their MLS history with Cleveland. Not only did Francisco Lindor (left) go out with Montgomery, but he hit him hard, going 5-9 with a home run, a double, and a walk twice in 11 board appearances.
Pete Alonso #20 of the New York Mets celebrates his three-time home race with #6 Starling Mart in the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field on Saturday
On the basic paths: The Yankees are ranked fourth in the majors with 0.66 base stolen per game, a departure from previous teams in the Bronx, but certainly in line with the general trend around baseball.
Shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa was the biggest thief, hitting 13 sacks a year, while Aaron Hicks 9 for 12 on base steals and Judge is 8 for 8.
Meanwhile, the Mets’ catchers were decimated by recent injuries as James McCann fell with a slash strain and Thomas Nido suffered a bruised hand in a recent collision with Max Scherzer.
Patrick Mazeca was the only healthy player on the roster until Saturday, when the Mets acquired fifth-year assistant Michael Perez from Pittsburgh for cash considerations.
Over the course of the year, the Mets allowed 0.53 stolen bases per game, and only 20 bases in baseball.
The Yankees are ranked fourth in the majors with 0.66 base stolen per game, a departure from previous teams in the Bronx, but certainly in line with the general trend around baseball. Shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa (pictured) was the biggest thief, passing 13 bags
Patrick Mazeca (pictured) was the only healthy catcher on the Mets’ roster until Saturday, when they acquired fifth-year assistant Michael Perez from Pittsburgh for cash considerations.
The ninth half: It’s a bit cliched to point out that the final tire tends to be an important tire, but that’s certainly the case with the Mets and Yankees, who have both been sharp in ninths this year.
The Mets average 0.41 hits in the ninth inning (eighth in a major) while the Yankees are the best in baseball with 0.52 points in the ninth. Meanwhile, the Mets caught opponents 0.24 points per game per frame (tied for the second time overall), compared to 0.26 for kickers (sixth).
It’s not hard to see why both teams enjoyed so much success in the ninth round.
Edwin Diaz of the Mets was among the best guards in baseball, scoring 1.69 junior ERAs while making 20 saves.
Not to be outdone by the Yankees’ closest team, Clay Homes boasts an impressive 1.26 ERA record with 17 saves per year.
Edwin Diaz of the Mets (pictured) was among the best guards in baseball, with 1.69 junior ERAs while making 20 saves
Manager Aaron Boone’s problem has been a string of recent injuries, including Michael King’s fractured elbow, which injured the qualifying man in IL for 60 days, and Wandy Peralta’s painful back.
And, of course, it doesn’t help that ex-Southpaw player Aroldis Chapman is in the midst of his worst season with a 5.75 ERA.
But what distinguished the Yankees at the end of the games were the bats, who were responsible for 10 wins in the ninth round or overtime innings by late June.
There were the usual culprits: Judge won a pair of home games and one by one.
But Gleyber Torres has a pair of successful hits amid his renewed season, not to mention Jose Trevino, an excellent defensive tackle who has hit a pair of matches himself.
deep counts: The Yankees lead the big leagues with nearly four walks per game, which is a major reason they are ranked second in OBP behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, the Mets bowlers have been quite stingy this season, finishing fifth in the OBP for opponents and eighth in walk allowed.
Perhaps the Mets’ biggest area of concern is first DJ LeMahieu, who ranks eighth in the OBP majors and is tied for fifth in walking.
And of course, giving LeMahieu a free pass means he’ll be on base when the judge, Anthony Rizzo, and Stanton come to the plate.
Yankees coach Aaron Boone (pictured) faces a barrage of injuries to his gang