The Yankees' Aaron Judge (99) slides into second for a double ahead of a tag by Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera on Aug. 15, 2017, at Yankee Stadium.

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Keidel: Regardless Of Records, Subway Series Always Matters

Mets, Yankees Meet In 3 Games At Citi Field This Weekend

Jason Keidel
June 08, 2018 - 10:07 am
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To all the old-world, calcified baseball purists who stewed over the idea of interleague play, this is why it works. 

It's not for two first-place teams in a scalding, summer pennant race. Those games would get box office gravitas no matter where they were played. 

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No, it's for this reason. When the 40-18 Yankees play the 27-32 Mets, it still carries some cachet. When one club is 8-2 over its last 10 games and the other is 2-8, it still has some heft. When one club can't beat the Reds, Marlins or Orioles while the other has already taken five of seven from the World Series champion Astros, it's still big.

It's still the Subway Series. 

The Subway Series salvages an otherwise laughable matchup between the princes and the paupers of the sport. Big Apple baseball supersedes the standings. Provincial pride, spread over these three games, trumps their status in the world west of the Hudson. If the Mets were playing the Padres at Citi Field this weekend, you'd see swaths of empty seats and the growing chasm between the announced attendance and real attendance. 

Since it's Mets vs. Yankees, those empty seats will be stuffed with butts. Many of them will be pinstriped, for sure, but the best thing to happen to the frigid Mets is for the white-hot Yankees to swing by for the weekend. The best thing for their wallet, and for their psyche. If baseball teaches us anything, it's that you can't look at the record as a precursor to the Subway Series. These games have their own meaning and ecosystem. 

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It's good for the Bronx Bombers, too. Instead of looking past their current, woeful opponent in anticipation of Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals, the Yanks know they have to keep their heads in the moment, on the Mets. 

As Mike Francesa said all week, there's almost no upside for the Bombers. If they win, they're supposed to. If the plentiful Yanks lose to the pitiful Mets, they should hang their heads in abject embarrassment. The Mets can play fast and loose, with a chip on each shoulder, and if they can squeeze two wins out of three games -- or even sweep -- it could literally save their season. Even more, it's their last chance to keep their jaded fan base on their crumbling bandwagon. 

It's not absurd to assert the Mets are in desperate need of wins or that they can steal two from their crosstown tormentors. The first game features Masahiro Tanaka pitching against Jacob deGrom. Advantage Mets. The second game pits Steven Matz against Domingo German. Advantage Mets. The third game could feature the best pitching matchup in MLB this weekend, with Luis Severino versus Noah Syndergaard, if he indeed returns from a finger injury. It would be Ace vs. Thor, 99 mph vs. 100 mph.  

The problem, of course, is the Mets' offense. Not even their blessed arms can overcome hollow bats. The Mets just scored one run over two games against the last-place, 19-41 Orioles, and have scored just three runs over their last 42 innings. Adding to their misery, the Mets have lost eight straight home games, while the Yankees have the best road record (18-9) in the majors. The Mets have forgotten what home plate looks like, scoring fewer runs (231) than anyone other than the Orioles and Marlins. Meanwhile, the Bombers have scored nearly 100 more runs (330) and would easily lead MLB if they hadn't played four fewer games than the Red Sox, who have scored 335 runs.  

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The Yanks lead the majors in home runs, RBIs, walks and OPS and are second in slugging percentage and on-base percentage. The Mets are just about bottom five in every offensive category. They bunt into double plays, let runners steal home and let someone hit a sac fly to their second baseman. In the last game he pitched, Zack Wheeler was tied with Asdrubal Cabrera for the highest batting average in the lineup (.286). 

It would be nice if the only serious offensive threat on the Mets, Yoenis Cespedes, was slated to play in the series. But it merely highlights the Mets' only path to winning at least two games -- outpitch the Yankees. Players, managers and coaches drown us in bromides about how each game counts no more or less than the other. But we know that's not true.

Even the Mets know the Subway Series is likely the most important series they will play this season. We'll soon find out if knowing the difference is enough to make a difference. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel