Mets, Yankees open 21st Subway Series

NEW YORK — The New York Yankees are going from one rivalry to another.

After two disappointing losses to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees begin a four-game, home-and-home series with the New York Mets on Monday night at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees enter the 21st edition of the “Subway Series” 4-8 in their past 12 games since July 31. They ended July a half-game ahead of Red Sox in the American League East but are now a season-high 5 1/2 games behind Boston.

The Yankees (61-55) opened their series with the Red Sox by scoring five times in the eighth for a 5-4 victory Friday. They followed it up with an ugly 10-5 loss Saturday and a disappointing 3-2, 10-inning loss on Sunday.

New York was two outs away from winning the series finale, but Aroldis Chapman allowed a game-tying homer to Rafael Devers. An inning later, Tommy Kahnle gave up a bases-loaded single to Andrew Benintendi.

Now comes a meeting with the Mets, who expected to be in contention after reaching the World Series in 2015 and getting the first National League wild-card spot in 2016.

Instead, the Mets are playing for the future after a rash of injuries derailed their season early on.

“I don’t think so,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said when asked if he thinks the excitement diminishes because both teams are not in contention. “I think there’ll be a ton of excitement in both stadiums.

“Obviously, they’re important games for us, and I’m sure the Mets consider them really important for them, too, as it’s part of the rivalry. But for us, too, in the standings, it’s really important.”

The Mets (53-62) were last at .500 on May 9. They are 15-20 in their last 35 games, though they just won three of four at Philadelphia. Michael Conforto hit his 26th homer (12th since the All-Star break) in the finale to help New York earn a 6-2 victory over the Phillies on Sunday.

“Two years ago, we thought he could hit 30 home runs,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “We saw the power. What you’re seeing this year is the swing is so consistent. You can look at a guy who has a chance to hit 30 homers who wasn’t even in the lineup in April.”

The Mets’ subpar performance led to the club dealing Addison Reed and Lucas Duda before the trade deadline and veterans Neil Walker and Jay Bruce in the past week.

The more recent swaps saw some intrigue with the Yankees.

Reportedly, the Yankees offered better minor-leaguers than the low-level pitcher the Indians gave up for Bruce, but the sticking point was less salary relief for the pending free agent outfielder’s salary.

On Friday, Mets GM Sandy Alderson revealed that the New York teams agreed to a deal for Walker but there were concerns about the second baseman’s medical reports, so the trade was called off.

“I got to tell you, I didn’t even think of that,” Girardi said. “If I didn’t think of it. I doubt my players are thinking of it either.”

The Mets acquired AJ Ramos to close for the time being, and they recently promoted two prospects, shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith. Rosario is 10-for-39 (.256) through his first 12 games while Smith went 2-for-10 in his first three games.

The pitching matchup for the series opener will be a pair of fill-ins who have struggled.

Rafael Montero will get the start for the Mets. It will be his second career start against the Yankees, whom he faced in his major league debut in Queens on May 14, 2014. Montero was considered a bigger prospect than Jacob deGrom at the time, and he allowed three runs and five hits in six innings of a 4-0 loss.

Since his debut, few things have gone right for Montero, especially this season. He is 1-8 with a 6.06 ERA in 23 appearances (nine starts). As a starting pitcher, Montero is 1-5 with a 6.40 ERA.

Montero’s lone win was June 25 in San Francisco. Since then, he is 0-4 with a 6.48 ERA in his past seven appearances.

Montero last pitched Wednesday during the Mets’ 5-1 loss to the Texas Rangers. He threw 87 pitches in three innings and allowed three runs and five hits to fall to 0-3 in games against American League teams.

Luis Cessa will start for the Yankees against the team that traded him along with Michael Fulmer to Detroit for Yoenis Cespedes.

Cessa is 0-3 with a 4.83 ERA in nine appearances (four starts). He is 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA as a starter this year. Cessa will be making his first start since going 3 2/3 innings and allowing three runs at Minnesota on July 18.

The right-hander is 2-7 with a 4.57 ERA in 13 career major league starts but has never faced the Mets in any role. He is making his first career interleague start.

Cessa made a pair of starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after his last stint with the Yankees. He pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings Wednesday at Gwinnett and went 4-6 with a 3.45 ERA in 14 appearances (13 starts) in Triple-A.

The Yankees lead the all-time series 62-46. They are 12-9 against the Mets at the current Yankee Stadium.

“They’re games we’ve got to go play, and obviously (the Yankees) are playing for something,” Collins said.