In the dog days of summer, it’s been an exciting one for New York baseball fans. With the Mets sweeping the Nats with an emphatic 5-2 win at a raucous Citi Field tonight, both the Mets and Yankees are in first place after August 1. Could both be on the way to October baseball for the first time since 2006?
Yes. It’s fun to follow for any big New York sports fan. Given that I’m a Yankee fan and Hasan bleeds Mets, it has been a welcome change from the long hockey off season. One which still has another six weeks before we can start pumping up training camps for our respective teams. Rather than bore you with more projected lineups, let’s take time out to appreciate what our baseball teams are doing for the city.
The Big Apple loves its baseball. From the glory days when it had three teams with the Giants in the Polo Grounds and Dodgers of Brooklyn at Ebbets Field competing with the Yankees in the real Stadium that’s now gone, the city that never sleeps has always been smitten with the boys of summer. With hard times hitting NYC the past couple of years, it’s nice to see both teams back playing meaningful games this late. The hopeless romantics can even dare dream of a Subway Series in frigid November autumn temps. It’s not hard to envision with the Yanks six up in the AL East and the Mets in a virtual tie with the Nats.
The Amazin’s have been the talk of the town lately. Ever since suffering that bad loss to the Padres, they have had a wild past few days including the trade that wasn’t for Carlos Gomez. An emotional Wilmer Flores was brought to tears when he was told by a fan he was being traded to the Brewers with injured starter Zach Wheeler for Gomez. But in as wild a scene as possible, Flores wiped tears away from his jersey as he went back to the dugout to cheers from Met fans. Meanwhile, an emotional Terry Collins explained why Flores was still in the game because he wasn’t told anything. Afterwards, the scene shifted to GM Sandy Alderson who fielded reporters’ questions on the trade that broke down due to Gomez’ physical. A hip issue was enough for Alderson to kill the deal. Though there was talk that money might have had something to do with it due to Gomez’ contract which runs through 2016. The two teams disagreed on why it fell apart. Eventually, Gomez was sent to the Astros on July 31.
For Flores, it was a relief that he was still a Met. The only organization he knew since being signed as a 16-year old teenager. His honesty at his locker was enough to understand how much it meant to remain a Met. After almost being traded, Wheeler went to Mets management and told him he wanted to stay. The starter who underwent successful Tommy John surgery and won’t be back until next June or July. These guys want to be part of it. They want to be part of the first Mets team to make the postseason since ’06. For Flores, his big moment came when he homered off Felipe Rivero to lead off the home 12th touching off a wild celebration in Flushing. A fitting ending for the player who thought he was gone the day before. Flores’ big hit propelled the Mets to a home sweep over the Nats.
With many skeptics questioning whether management would go out and land a big bat, Alderson swung a trade with the Tigers at the deadline for Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes. He didn’t have to give up anyone off the roster sending pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa to Detroit for Cespedes, who has 18 dingers. A no brainer that energized the Mets fanbase. The 2013 Home Run Derby winner is now an integral part of a improved lineup that also includes key additions Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe.
One player who has been on fire is Lucas Duda. He drove in all three runs in Saturday’s come from behind 3-2 win. That included two bombs keeping the first base slugger red hot with eight homers in the last eight games. His clutch opposite field RBI double in the eighth was the game-winner. In the series finale, Noah Syndergaard outpitched Jordan Zimmerman striking out nine in eight innings. The Mets touched Zimmerman up for five runs in the third with all coming via the long ball. Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Duda all went yard. With closer Jeurys Familia unavailable, former Nat Tyler Clippard closed. The Amazin’s are now 55-50. Percentage points behind the Nats who are 54-49.
While most of the talk has centered around the Mets, the Yankees have gone about their business leading the AL East by six games. They improved to 59-45 with a 12-3 rout of the White Sox to take two of three in the Windy City. Jacoby Ellsbury started it off with a lead off homer to left center. He also had a sacrifice fly in a five-run third that included a two-run single from the sizzling Didi Gregorius, who has turned it on bringing his average up to .260 with two more hits and three runs scored. The Bronx Bombers touched up Chicago starter Jeff Samardzjia for nine earned in less than five innings. That included a Teix message from first baseman Mark Teixeira, who now has 29 dingers and 74 RBI’s.
Even Stephen Drew got into the act with three hits and four RBI’s. He hasn’t hit much at .199 but has 13 homers and 32 RBI’s as a part-time second baseman. It’s a very different time for Yankee fans with GM Brian Cashman opting not to overpay for David Price, who went to Toronto while Cole Hamels was dealt to Texas. Even with Michael Pineda going on the disabled list, Cashman didn’t add any starting pitching opting to promote from within by recalling Bryan Mitchell and top prospect Luis Severino. Mitchell struggled Saturday taking the loss but the 21-year old Severino went 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA at Triple-A Wilkes Barre/Scranton. In 61 innings, he’s allowed 40 hits and 18 runs (13 ER) while walking 17 and fanning 50. He’s expected to make his major league debut Tuesday versus the Red Sox. A big time moment for a stud prospect Cashman deemed “untouchable” along with outfield slugger Aaron Judge. The Padres tried to get shortstop Jorge Mateo for closer Craig Kimbrel but the Yanks decided it was too expensive. It would’ve been overkill with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller a dominant eighth and ninth inning tandem.
Rather than part with any top prospects, Cashman and the Yankees organization have shown restraint holding onto their blue chips for the future which also includes catcher Gary Sanchez and first baseman Greg Bird. Maybe there’s even hope for third baseman Eric Jagielo who’s hit well at Trenton. With the Yanks standing pat outside of the addition of former Mariner second baseman Dustin Ackley, they’re basically rolling the dice with the current group that’s featured monster seasons from Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod at 40 with 24 home runs and 61 RBI’s has been amazing. Now just a DH, he’s taken players such as Gregorius under his wing and helped them grow.
It’s all clicking with Chase Headley productive in July hitting .370 with 15 knocked in. Brian McCann has also hit in the clutch going .322-5-45 with runners in scoring position while belting 17 dingers. Brett Gardner has turned in another good season pacing the club in hitting with a .288 batting average, 72 runs scored while hitting 11 homers and stealing 15 bases. Gardy deservedly made the All-Star team in Cincinnati. No small feat for the former Yankees ’05 third round pick who led the Staten Island Baby Bombers to a Penn-League championship that same year.
The only question with the Yanks is their starting pitching. Can Masahiro Tanaka hold up and what about Ivan Nova, who won his third straight decision allowing one earned in six innings fanning seven? If he stays healthy, it would be a big boost to their postseason chances. They’ll wait on Pineda who probably will miss a month before returning for the stretch run. Joe Girardi can find out if Severino is ready. He’s gotten 11 wins out of Nathan Eovaldi and probably will move Adam Warren back to the rotation.
With both New York ball clubs in good shape, it’s a great time for baseball fans in the big city. No matter what side you’re on, it’s great to see. For once, we can focus on positives instead of pointing at negatives with Tom Brady and Deflate Gate or Jason Pierre-Paul or Sheldon Richardson. We don’t have to think about the annoying NFL where stupidity exists.
With two months left in the season, let’s enjoy the ride and see where it takes us.