Friday, April 24, 2015

Hot Yankees host scalding-hot Mets

When was the last time the New York Mets came into Yankee Stadium riding an franchise-record-tying 11-game winning streak? Never, until now. Yes, the boys from Queens are red-hot and will face a slightly-less-hot New York Yankees club that has won six of their last seven games (seven of 10 on the road trip) to move two games above .500 and into a three-way tied for first place in the American League East.

The Mets’ 13-3 start is tied for the best in club history with the 1986 World Series championship team and the 10-0 homestand they just completed was the first ever such domination. It was a stark contrast to the Yankees last homestand which saw them lose four of six games.

The Mets have one of the better rotations in the game and will send out Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Jon Niese in succession to the hill in the series. The Yankees have been getting solid pitching as well and will counter with Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi respectively.

The Mets bullpen is depleted due to injury, but if they've rallied around each other and once they get the game to Jeurys Familia it’s been a done deal. The Yankees bullpen is certainly a strength this season; having one of the best one-two tandems in the game with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.

On offense, the Mets lost David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud to injury, but Lucas Duda and the rest of the Mets have contributed to the run-scoring efforts and come into Friday’s action ninth in MLB in runs scored (73). The Yankees lead MLB in home runs (21) and rank tied for second in runs scored (85).

The Mets began the season with plenty of promise in part to getting Harvey back and having deGrom with a Rookie of the Year season under his belt. The team has young talent mixed with veteran leadership. The addition of Michael Cuddyer to the offense led by Wright, Duda and Curtis Granderson also had some believing the Mets could be knocking on the postseason door come October. So far the Mets have been able to withstand the injuries and that too shows they’ve built enough depth for this early success to last through the season.

Alex Rodriguez
Courtesy of Keith Allison
The Yankees on the other hand had been deemed old, injury-prone, uninspired and even boring, but have shown to be quite the opposite. The rotation has remained healthy and has begun to string together strong starts as a group. The offense has been getting contributions throughout much of the lineup. The Yankees have won blowouts and close games. They’ve put aside a rough first five games and even their recent losses could have been victories with a different bounce here or there.

The Yankees and Mets split last season’s shortened Subway Series winning two games apiece. The Yanks hold a 56-42 edge in the interleague series, but the Mets have won four straight in the Bronx. So there are two streaks the Yankees will try to end Friday night.

It will not be easy as deGrom has been stellar this season (2-1, 0.93 ERA, 17 K in 19.1 IP). Pineda has a 2-0 record, but a 5.00 ERA. His best start was the first one of the season, so he’ll be looking to right his personal ship.

On Saturday, Harvey takes center stage against Sabathia in a battle of present/future versus the past. Harvey is 3-0 with a 3.50 ERA. He has struck out 24 batters and walked just one in his 18 innings of work. Sabathia, in the midst of a reclamation project of sorts has lost all three of his starts, but has gotten progressively better each time out.

In the finale the left-handed and typically solid Niese (2-0, 1.50 ERA in 18 innings) meets the newest Yankee starter Eovaldi (1-0, 3.12 ERA in 17.1 innings) who is still trying to limit the number of hits he allows per game (currently 12.7 per nine).

There are some good storylines besides the pitching.

Curtis Granderson returns to the Bronx as does former Yanks hitting coach Kevin Long. Granderson has had a tough start to the season (.200/.375/.220) but leads the team in walks with 14 suggesting he is seeing the ball well and it is just a matter of time before the hits start to drop. Granderson enjoyed his best seasons from a power perspective in the Bronx, so the short porch in right field remains inviting for the left-handed slugger who is homerless so far this season.

Duda leads the Mets’ regulars in hits, doubles, AVG, OBP and OPS. The first baseman’s lefty swing plays very well at Yankee Stadium.

Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores is hitting .421/.421/727 with two homers and four RBI in his last five games. Mets prospect Kevin Plawecki, who is now catching with d'Arnaud on the shelf, recorded two hits in his major league debut Tuesday. How he handles the pitching staff could be a key to the series.

Chris Young
Courtesy of Keith Allison
For the home team, Chris Young, a former Met who performed miserably in Queens, has been great with the Yankees since they signed him off the scrapheap at the end of last season. He’s been hitting so well early on (.357/.426/.762 with four home runs and nine RBI in 46 plate appearances) that the Yankees have been forced to find the outfielder hired as a reserve time as a starter.

After a quick start to the season, Alex Rodriguez slowed down a bit in the series with the Detroit Tigers, but still owns a .991 OPS with four home runs and 11 RBI. A-Rod is two homers shy of tying Willie Mays on the all-time home run list with 660. The Yankees have an agreement with Rodriguez to pay him $6 million when he ties Mays, but it has been reported the club will fight the payment, claiming that they can no longer market the milestone due to Rodriguez’s performance-enhancing drug history which includes a yearlong suspension.

Despite hitting just .196 on the season, Mark Teixeira leads the club in homers and RBI with five and 13 respectively. Teixeira will continue to hit for a low average because he refuses to battle the shift, but if he approaches the 30/100 mark in homers and RBI (he’s on pace for 51/132), the Yankees will take it.

In all the series shapes up to be a hard fought one. There is pride on the line, but that’s more for the fans. These clubs want wins to further their respective positions in the standings. They’ll take the pride that comes with winning a championship before a three-game series in April.

One of the teams is going to come up on the short end of the series. Both teams are riding highs and playing very good baseball. It would seem the team that plays the most complete series will come out on top.

Statistics via Baseball-Reference.

New York Yankees logo courtesy of SportsLogos.net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



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