from Deesha Thosar
FOX Sports MLB Writer
NEW YORK – The last time since Yankees AND Mets faced off, less than a month ago at Citi Field, a Metro 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 by sweeping the Yankees in the two-game set behind Max Scherzer’s seven scoreless innings in the finale.
Since then, the disco ball in the Yankees’ clubhouse has been gathering dust. Someone should also check the locker room smoke machine and strobe lights, because it’s been weeks since either of those were put into regular use.
While the Yankees enter Monday having gone 5-15 in their last 20 games, spiraling into an incredible freefall while still managing to hold onto their lead in the AL East, the Mets over that same stretch have gone 14- 6. Since the Mets swept the Yankees in Flushing, the Yankees have the second-worst record in the American League. The Mets in that span have remained consistent, winning five of their last six series and looking more and more like a team that can neutralize the mighty Dodgers.
Mark Canha hits two homers in 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: the narratives surrounding these cross-rivals as they enter their second and final Subway Series of 2022 couldn’t be more opposite. The Yankees are regularly harassed by their own frustrated and impatient fans. The Mets, despite a stretch of injuries, are taking care of business behind two of the best pitchers in the game.
But this Metro Series, set to take place Monday and Tuesday in the Bronx, may provide just the jolt the Yankees need right now. Sold out crowd. The playoff atmosphere. New York bragging rights. Feather racing.
With so much on the line, let’s take a look at how the Yankees and Mets compare heading into the interleague matchup.
This is a no brainer. The Mets boast a top of the rotation that is performing like the best in baseball. The trio of Jacob deGrom, Scherzer and Chriss Bassitt has posted a 1.77 ERA (15 earned runs, 76.1 innings) in 12 starts in August. By comparison, Yankees rookie right-hander Frankie Montas has allowed 14 earned runs in three starts since being acquired from Oakland.
Gerrit Cole struggled again Saturday against the Blue Jays, allowing four runs in the fifth inning, which diminished the positive progress he had made in recent outings. The Yankees ace has a 3.41 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 26 starts in what is shaping up to be a messy season. On the plus side, Nestor Cortes is flashing a 2.74 ERA in his All-Star season.
What makes the Mets a title contender?
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In the big picture, the Mets were without Scherzer and deGrom for a significant portion of the season while Yankees pitchers were rotating. This has led to a marginal difference overall between the two starting staffs; The Mets own a 3.89 ERA, eighth in baseball among starters, while the Yankees are right behind them with a 3.91 ERA, which ranks 10th.
The result is that the Mets’ rotation has been consistently dominant, so the Amazins get the edge here.
The Yankees’ offense has been underwhelming for several weeks now. Since the All-Star break, Yankees pitchers have a 101 wRC+, ranking 17th in the majors.
So far, August has been their worst month offensively. The Yankees have been shut out five times and scored just 17 runs in their last eight games — including the eight they scored against the Rays in a wild comeback win on Wednesday. Even slower Aaron Judge hasn’t hit a home run in nine straight games, his longest streak of the season.
Much of that offensive regression has to do with the absences of Giancarlo Stanton (Achilles tendinitis) and Matt Carpenter (broken foot). Stanton began a rehab assignment this weekend and should be back in the lineup in less than a week, while Carpenter has yet to begin baseball activities.
But every team deals with injuries to key players in a long season, and Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the lineup’s absences are no excuse for the team’s lackluster play.
“We’ve got to be calm 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 now where it’s been a long period of struggle. We’ve got to do better.”
What’s wrong with the Yankees?
Ben Verlander looks at MLB’s hottest topics, including the Yankees’ continued August struggles and what manager Aaron Boone had to say after another shutout.
What do the Mets do? They grind out bats, frustrate the opposing starter in the process and eventually get on base in any way possible. Manager Eric Chavez’s relentless pursuit of the bats has helped the Mets lead the first-pitch lead in Game 1. They also lead the majors in on-base percentage (.341) and are in the top five in most offensive categories—with the exception of slugging.
Aside from Pete Alonso, who hit 30 home runs, the Amazin’s don’t slug. They own the second-lowest strikeout rate in baseball and make a ton of ground ball contact, accounting for their MLB leading 115 infield hits. As manager Buck Showalter says of his offense, the Mets have an “unselfish lineup” that is at its best when hitters are disciplined at the plate and put balls in play. This somewhat old school approach has worked well all season.
It would be extremely surprising if the Yankees stayed this lifeless at the plate for much longer. When the Bronx Bombers are clicking on all cylinders, as they were early in the season, they have more power than the Mets and are one of baseball’s hardest hitting teams.
But the Mets improved at the trade deadline by adding slugger Daniel Vogelbach and shortstops Darin Ruf and Tyler Naquin to become a more complete club, and now, they have the edge over the Yankees’ sleepy 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. In addition to the Yankees’ offensive struggles, their pitching is another area of concern, mostly because of those injuries, but also because former closer Aroldis Chapman has been inconsistent.
There is still time for newcomers Lou Trivino and Scott Efross to earn regular, high-impact roles in the relief corps. But the strength of the Yankees bullpen as currently constructed is questionable for the postseason.
However, the Yankees have the edge over the Mets in this department. That might be hard to believe, considering the Mets are coming off Edwin Diaz’s lousy 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 have been important for the Amazes, but he’s more efficient in lower-leverage spots than the higher ones. Right-handed reliever Mychal Givens, acquired by the Cubs at the trade deadline, has allowed nine earned runs in an underwhelming 7.2 innings since joining the Mets.
Couple that volatility with Mets GM Billy Eppler’s failure to upgrade the bullpen before the trade deadline, and the bridge from deGrom to Diaz is shaky at best. During the season, the Yankees’ bullpen unit has been the superior one. Yankees relievers own 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, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. She never misses a Rafael Nadal match, no matter what country or time zone he plays. Follow him on Twitter at @Deesha Thosar.
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