Pete Alonso and Gary Sanchez

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Keidel: Momentum On Mets' Side Entering Subway Series

2-Game Series Set To Begin Monday Night In Bronx

Jason Keidel
June 10, 2019 - 9:46 am
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With the NBA and NHL seasons ending this week, baseball is about to be our stand-alone sport. No better way for our pastime to take the main statge than with the Subway Series as the opening act. Few intrastate duels match the summer heat that Yankees vs. Mets produces.

And while the Yankees (40-24) have had by far the better season, the Mets (32-33) are playing better baseball as they square off for a two-game set in the Bronx starting Monday night, if weather permits.

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In squeaking by Cleveland on Sunday -- after blowing a 5-0 lead -- the Yankees limp home with a 2-5 record over their last seven games. And now their surprise pitcher of the season, Domingo German -- who is tied for the MLB lead in wins -- has joined his Band of Bombers on the shelf. His injury shouldn't shock us, really, based on his recent outings. German was 9-1 through his first 10 appearances with a 2.60 ERA, allowing opponents to bat just .185 and giving up just five home runs. But over his last three starts, German is 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA, allowing the enemy a .323 batting average, while surrendering seven homers. German is gone for at least 10 days with a bum hip, helping the injured list balloon back up to 13 players. 

German joins CC Sabathia, Luis Severino and James Paxton as yet another pitcher who's spent time on the IL. The right-hander's injury italicizes the need for more starting pitching and compounds the sad reality that Dallas Keuchel chose the Braves over the Yankees, when money was the only weapon either club needed. Now the Yanks are juggling a bunch of contingency plans, such as Madison Bumgarner -- the former Giants ace who hasn't won more than six games since 2016.

The bullpen has often doubled as makeup for a troubled rotation. But the one bedrock group on the Yankees has wavered lately. Indeed, by the time Jake Bauers tied the game Sunday at 5-5, with a moonshot that got lost in the bushes behind center field, the Yankees' bullpen had allowed 12 earned runs in their last seven games. In the previous 12 games, the same pen had a 1.88 ERA. The Yanks won in 10 innings, but they haven't found an elixir for their rotation. 

Now they host the Mets for two games in the Bronx. As always, these games mean more in symbolism than the standings, 18 innings for provincial pride and brief bragging rights. Yet despite their divergent places in the standings, the Mets actually have a little more momentum at the moment. 

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After winning the rubber match against the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, the Mets have won consecutive series and are 4-2 over their last six games. Mets pitchers struck out 39 batters in their three-game set with the Rockies, including a gem Sunday by Noah Syndergaard, who pitched to his comic-book handle, Thor, by hurling seven scoreless innings, allowing just one harmless hit in the second innings. 

The Mets can't match the Yanks' lineup, but they do in terms of staring pitchers. The first game features Jason Vargas against Masahiro Tanaka. Vargas (2-3, 3.57 ERA) has posted a 1.85 ERA over his last seven starts. Conversely, Tanaka (3-5, 3.42) has yielded eight earned runs in his last 12 innings pitched. In the second game, Zack Wheeler (5-3, 4.61) battles James Paxton (3-2, 3.11). Wheeler has pitched at least seven innings over his last four starts, while Paxton has pitched fewer than five innings over his last three starts (partially because he's saddled with a pitch count following an injury). The Yankees have such a dearth of decent pitching they didn't even have a starter on the mound Sunday, using Chad Green in the opener role. 

With almost all their sluggers toiling on the trainer's table, the Yanks have Gary Sanchez as their premier home run hitter. And the hefty catcher hasn't disappointed, placing second in the AL with 19 homers. Meanwhile, the Mets are grinning at the exploits of Pete Alonso, who is second in the NL with 21 round-trippers. 

The Mets are also a surprising 19-11 at home, which is a mere 10 miles from Yankee Stadium. So while the Mets are technically the road team in this series, they can luxuriate in all the comforts of home. Either way, this is one of the rare times this season the Mets are on a better run than the Bombers. 

If the Mets don't have it bad enough doubling as the Yankees' doormat for the last 25 years, there's a chance the suddenly gray skies will dump copious rain on the Bronx on Monday night, nixing the game, and perhaps the Mets' momentum. Let's hope that doesn't happen, because New York City sports has been a mausoleum of lost seasons of late. No better way to give us something to cheer than baseball's true Subway Series, in one of the last, true baseball towns.  

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel