The final blow on Wednesday night came in the hands of Aaron Hicks, and he certainly didn’t want that. Hicks, a left fielder for the Yankees, picked up Starling Marte’s winning single, held it for a while, and then tossed it aside like a piece of gum. The boy with the ball picked it up and threw it into the crowd at Citi Field. Rubbish for the Yankees, treasure for the fans.
Metz 3-2 win gave them two games with the Yankees in the first Subway Series since 2015, in which both teams finished first in their respective divisions. They will meet for two more games next month in the Bronx, and maybe in the fall.
“Oh, that would be great,” said Mets Pete Alonso, who hit his 26th homer on Wednesday. “If we play against each other in November it will be great.”
Alonso said he knew the Mets and Yankees had long since met in the World Series – a blow to those of us who remember it well, but from his point of view, it was accurate. The polar bear was just a cub in October 2000, when he was only five years old, when the Yankees danced on the lawn of Shea Stadium, winning their third title in a row.
This time there was no holiday in Flushing for visitors.
The Yankees have lost 10 of their last 15 games, including last week’s road doubleheader to the Houston Astros, who beat them in the season’s series five games to two. These results may have pierced the Yankees’ aura, but not their confidence. They would like to remind you that they are still the best team in baseball, 66-33 before Thursday’s game against Kansas City.
“It doesn’t bother us,” manager Aaron Boon said. “We know where we’re going.”
Boone was assertive after Wednesday’s loss, challenging the notion that the Yankees had too many power-hitters prone to losing. He stated that it was “fake news” – can’t we bury the term already? — but admitted it was nice to have a new outfielder, Andrew Benintendiwho contacts a lot and leads the American League in singles.
“We’ve got savages in the lineup, really good hitters,” Boone said. “Benintendi is a great striker – he goes into the base very high, hits from the left flank, gives you some balance. If we get him, he’ll be another really good major league hitter that will lengthen your lineup.”
Boone spoke shortly before the trade became official: Benintendi to the Yankees, three Class A pitchers to the Royals. Benintendi, a Golden Glove left fielder last season, was hitting .320 on a .387 percentage on base and three home runs for Kansas City. Benintendi, 28, helped the Boston Red Sox win the 2018 championship by finishing second in all of his World Series victories.
“Battle-to-ball skills, speed always work well at bat – and if you’re not too careful, man, he can get out of the court on you,” Yankees’ Aaron Judge said. “I’ve seen it many times at Yankee Stadium. Just a versatile player, that’s for sure.”
Benintendy, who has seven career homers in 30 games at Yankee Stadium, is basically the exact opposite of Joey Gallo, the outfielder who hit .160 in 191 strikeouts in 418 at-bats since his trade from Texas last July. Gallo’s 25 homers weren’t enough to make up for all the empty bats.
The Yankees have other pressing concerns as well: pitcher Michael King underwent season-ending elbow surgery this week, starter Luis Severino was out of action for almost two weeks with a right lat sprain, and slugger Giancarlo Stanton was out of action with a injury to the left Achilles. This season, it turns out, is not as charming as it seemed for the first three months.
“We know we’re really good and we know we’re going to have problems this season,” Boon said. “We’re prepared for it. We’re ready to handle it. We’re actually taking a bit of adversity. We’ll work our way through it, I have no doubt.”
With an 11.5-game lead in East Alabama through Wednesday, the Yankees have reason to feel comfortable. The Mets are only three games ahead of Atlanta in the National League East, but they, too, are looking to capitalize on adversity in time.
Max Scherzer, who turned 38 on Wednesday, missed more than a month with a left oblique strain; if he was in better shape in October, the forced rest was worth it. He returned as a full ace this month, averaging 1.39 in five starts, ahead of Bob Gibson on the career underdog list.
Scherzer fired the referee four times on Wednesday, three times due to third strike sliders that the referee expected but couldn’t handle.
“First at bat, I was all over the heater,” said the referee, who lined up to the right. “I kind of sat on the slider for the rest of the game, and sometimes when that happens, you expand the zone a bit.”
Cy Young’s other multiple Mets winner, Jacob de Grom, also came out Wednesday, working four innings for Class AAA Syracuse. DeGrom, who has managed a stress response on his right shoulder blade, has been out of a major tournament for over a year. Theoretically, free time could make deGrom stronger when it matters most, though the Mets can’t be sure of that.
“When you step on the level he pitched on, I don’t know,” said manager Buck Showalter. “I can’t sit here and say what I know. But it will be interesting to know.”
Showalter said the Mets hope to activate deGrom from the injured list early next week, around August. 2 trading term if it happens. There is no better weapon the Mets could find on the open market, and no better reason to be optimistic that there could be a deep playoff in their future.
What if they end up with a rematch of that long-standing duel with the Yankees? As Alonso said: really cool.