Jun 08, 2012
By RAIMUNDO ORTIZ
Special to The Standard
After a joyful weekend last week for the New York Mets, including Johan Santana twirling the franchise’s first ever no-hitter against the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals, they’ve had a bucket of ice water dumped on their heads by the National League East leading Washington Nationals.
The Yankees, on the other hand, quietly took two of three from the Detroit Tigers, and got a far less publicized gem from the inconsistent Phil Hughes, in which he dominated the reigning Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander. They’ve also been pounding on Tampa Bay.
The Yankees and Mets will lock horns once again this weekend at Yankee Stadium, and despite all the good tidings brought by Santana’s no-no, it’s the Bronx Bombers who are carrying the momentum into Yankee Stadium.
That does not mean Mets fans should cower at the thought of facing their cross-town rivals. The Yankees have crushed nearly twice as many home runs as the Mets, but they’re hitting a putrid .220 with runners in scoring position while the Mets are raking at a .262 clip in the same situations. The flipside is the Yanks’ 9.09 ERA with runners in scoring position. That is good for third-best in all of baseball, and they hope that will negate the Mets’ clutch hitting.
David Wright, making his strongest bid yet to supplant Alex Rodriguez as New York’s premier third baseman, is carrying a .362 average into the series, and left-handed slugger Lucas Duda has found his power stroke just in time to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch. He has swatted four home runs in his last five games.
Despite those two hot hitters, the Yankees boast the superior offense. Yankees’ center fielder Curtis Granderson’s 17 home runs are more than the entire Mets’ starting outfield. The men in pinstripes have more homers, a better batting average, and get on base more.
If this weekend’s series is high scoring, expect the Yanks to come out on top.
The way the Mets can knock off the hated Yankees is on the mound. CC Sabathia, the Yankees ace, took the hill last night against the Rays, making him unavailable for the series. The Mets’ ace, Santana, will take on up-and-down free agent acquisition Hiroki Kuroda Friday night.
On Saturday, Dillon Gee will stare down Hughes, whose 4.96 ERA and 1.34 WHIP have been a major disappointment to the Yankees. Then, on Sunday, Jon Niese will oppose Yankees stalwart Andy Pettitte in what is the only pitching match up that, on paper, favors the Yankees. Pettitte un-retired this off-season and the Yankees couldn’t be more grateful—he is sitting on a 2-1 record with a 2.95 ERA, sub-1.00 WHIP, and is fresh off fanning 10 Rays on Tuesday.
The Yankees will enter the series far from full strength. They have lost future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera for the entire season with torn knee ligaments. 23-year-old starting pitcher Michael Pineda, was also lost for the year before he even threw one regular season pitch. Starting left fielder Brett Gardner’s status is uncertain for the series and top-flight setup man David Robertson will be out as well.
For the Mets, their walking wounded carry lower profiles, but are no less essential to the team. Starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Shortstops Ruben Tejada and Ronny Cedeno are missing, as are utility man Justin Turner, outfielder Mike Baxter, and reliever Ramon Ramirez. They have, however, activated left fielder Jason Bay off the disabled list.
For the Yankees, this weekend is about maintaining their stranglehold on New York baseball, and meeting their lofty expectations.
For the Mets, it means more. It is about knocking off Big Brother. It is about reversing a losing culture. Most importantly, it is about proving their magical weekend last week was no mirage.
Friday night’s game will be on YES network as well as SNY. Saturday night you can find the Yanks and Mets on FOX at 7:15 and on Sunday they will lock horns at 8:00 on ESPN as the Sunday Night Baseball showcase. For those listening to the radio all three games will be on 660 WFAN for the Mets fans and WCBS 880 for the Yankees crowd.
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