Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Mark your calendars or set up a smartphone alert, baseball fans - the first leg of the Subway Series is speeding toward us.
But before the Yankees and Mets meet for the first time this season June 10-11th in the Bronx, both clubs have work to do, particularly the Mets. Both have to get healthier, too, because we want to watch the likes of Didi Gregorius and Jeff McNeil when the teams meet.
That way, you can have a fuller picture of your favorite team when you begin smack-talking relatives from Brooklyn to Bergen County to Battery Park.
So here's a look at what the Mets should focus on as they continue their West Coast swing with games against the Dodgers and Arizona and then play host to the Giants and Rockies:
Beat a good team:The Mets are coming off a stretch of playing the Marlins, Nationals and Tigers, bad teams all. If they're going to have a say in the race, don't they have to eventually beat some contenders? They are 2-14 in their last 16 games against the Dodgers. And the Yanks' record (35-18 entering Tuesday) says they're a good team.
Figure out how to win on the road: Remember when you used to worry about the Mets being mediocre at Citi Field? Now they're downright lousy on the road. They are 11-18 away from home, have lost 15-of-their-last-18 road games and have had two six-game losing streaks on the road. Yes, both of the first games against the Yankees are at the Stadium. They could use a boost from their starters in this regard - the Mets rotation has a 5.30 ERA in 29 road games.
Speaking of their starters….: The Mets desperately need a return to dominance from Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. The rotation is supposed to be the bedrock of the club, led by what many thought would be a devastating combo at the top. But Syndergaard has a 4.93 ERA and deGrom is at 3.71. Steven Matz (3.63) leads Mets starters in ERA. Overall, the Mets entered play Tuesday 18th in the majors in ERA (4.50), 0.39 worse than the National League average. On nights such as Monday, when deGrom battled but could only deliver five innings, the Mets bullpen underbelly gets exposed while trying to get 12 outs, especially against thumpers like the Dodgers.
Get some relief: The Mets entered their current road trip with the lowest bullpen ERA in the National League in May, but their relievers gave up seven runs in three innings in the first game against the Dodgers. Overall, the bullpen is 22nd in bullpen ERA (4.56) and tied for the most blown saves (11) in the majors. Jeurys Familia has struggled as Edwin Diaz's setup man in his return to the New York. Getting Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo back from the Injured List would probably help, but the Mets need to make some bullpen discoveries, quickly.
The to-do list is a little lighter for the first-place Yankees and it's pretty clear why - they entered play Monday 26-8 since April 19, the best record in the majors over that span. They are finishing a series with the Padres, then welcome to Boston to the Bronx before trips to Toronto and Cleveland.
Here's a look at what the Yanks might want to accomplish before facing the Mets:
Keep mashing: Sounds obvious, but we needed a spot to include some of these stats: The Yanks offense is bludgeoning opponents and recently had a stretch in which it produced at least six runs in eight straight games. The club last accomplished that feat in 1957. That's with the likes of Gregorius, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton still on the Injured List. Overall, the Yanks are fourth in MLB in runs, fifth in homers and sixth in OPS.
C'mon, get healthy: This could count as a combo category, since the Mets are missing Robinson Cano, Lugo, McNeil and Brandon Nimmo, among others. But injuries have been the very story of the Yankees season. They're hopeful that James Paxton and CC Sabathia can return soon to their rotation, but they're missing Luis Severino, too. Even Mets fans probably secretly want to see Judge play against their favorite team. Do the Yanks add a starter via trade or signing (Dallas Keuchel) before meeting the Mets? What better stage for unveiling a new Bronx star?
Send a rivalry message: OK, so maybe this sort of thing is bigger in football, but wouldn't it be interesting if the Yankees made a statement in their four-game series against the defending World Series champion Red Sox? Boston started the season slowly and was 6-13 on April 17. But the Sox entered play Tuesday at 29-25 and in third place in the American League East, 6.5 games behind the Yankees.