New York, New York: Yankees, Mets meet up after break (Jul 19, 2018)
Under first-year manager Aaron Boone, the Yankees went into the break on a collision course to challenge the Boston Red Sox for American League East supremacy with the fallback option of hosting the one-game wild-card game.
Meanwhile, the Mets took a slow, local trip toward the basement of the National League East after the best start in team history under rookie manager Mickey Callaway.
The second installment of this year's "Subway Series" kicks off Friday night when the Yankees host the Mets at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees (62-33) are on a pace for about 106 wins but also face the misfortune of playing in the same division as the Red Sox, who hold a 4 1/2-game lead. New York, however, owns a five-game lead over the Seattle Mariners for the right to host the wild-card game, which it won last season.
New York is returning to the Bronx after going 6-5 on an 11-game trip through Toronto, Baltimore and Cleveland. In that same stretch, the Red Sox went 9-1, creating the largest gulf between the teams since the Yankees were five games back on April 23.
"Not at all, there is nothing we can do about it. We have the Mets, that's our next up and that will be what we focus on," Boone said of scoreboard watching after Sunday's 5-2 loss in Cleveland. "Hopefully, you get some cooperation standing-wise, but you drive yourself crazy in July trying to keep track of that. Just take care of our own house."
Despite the mediocre results in the last trip, the Yankees are 53-24 since getting off to a 9-9 start. They also are 20-3-3 in their last 26 series.
"It's easy to sit here and nitpick and try to see how we can be better, but ultimately we have to be better to win the division and get where we want to be, which is win the World Series," Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said. "I am pleased with the way we played in the first half, but I am not pleased we are not in first place in the division, so we have some work to do."
While the Yankees hope to take care of things against the Mets, the Red Sox visit the Detroit Tigers for a three-game series.
As for the Mets, they hope to improve on their worst record before the break since 1993 -- a year no Mets fan wants to remember. At 39-55, they are three percentage points (.415) behind the Miami Marlins for fourth place in the division.
They began with 11 wins in 12 games but are 28-54 since, including two home losses to the Yankees on June 8-9. Those losses were part of a 5-21 June that sent the Mets spiraling toward the basement because of several poorly played games.
Things are going slightly better for the Mets of late but still not enough to keep them in contention. They are 7-7 in their last 14 games but still 13 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the second wild-card spot in the NL.
"I think we have to come out and play the game in a better way-- fundamentally, situationally," Callaway said. "We have to be able to hit a sacrifice fly to get that guy in from third. We have to be able to do all the small things that it takes to win. I think that our team can win games if we do the small things, but we have to really focus on those small things."
The Mets split four games with the Washington Nationals before the All-Star break and took a 6-1 loss on Sunday when they mustered five hits.
"That 11-1 start seems a long time from now," Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo said. "We did have some injuries, and that definitely doesn't help, but I think we also ran into some bad luck along the way in big situations, and those can sometimes snowball into bigger things. It was just a combination of a lot of things that got us to this point."
Among the things getting to the Mets to this point was another injury to left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who was limited to 81 games last season because of a variety of leg injuries, has been on the DL with a hip injury since May 16. Since his last appearance on May 13, the Mets are 20-37.
Cespedes is rehabbing in the Gulf Coast League where he played first base. It is possible that Cespedes could return by Friday, especially since he can serve as a designated hitter.
German is 2-5 with a 2.49 ERA in 18 appearances and is making his 13th start. Since entering the Yankees' rotation on May 6, German has experienced some good moments but owns a 5.97 ERA as a starting pitcher after allowing six runs in four innings in a 6-5 loss at Cleveland last Friday.
One of German's better starts occurred last month against the Mets. He allowed first-inning homers to Todd Frazier and Asdrubal Cabrera but held the Mets to three runs in six innings while getting nine strikeouts in a 4-3 win.
Syndergaard was close to returning from a finger injury last month against the Yankees but did not come back until last Friday when he allowed one run and seven hits in five innings of a 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals.
The hard-throwing Syndergaard is making his second career start against the Yankees. His previous start against the Yankees was Sept. 19, 2015, when he allowed five runs and seven hits in six innings of a 5-0 loss at Citi Field.