Subway series preview (Yankees/Mets)

As a New York baseball fan, this is one of the best times of the year, the Subway Series between the Yankees and Mets. Although neither team will probably win their respective divisions, the Mets are still within reaching distance of a Wild Card spot, as they sit just 2.5 games behind the Marlins.  Last season was just the fourth time that both made the playoffs, as the Mets ended up losing in the World Series. This season, the Yankees have entered sell-mode and the Mets have struggled with their offense and key injuries. Entering this series, both teams have really struggled lately. The Yankees have lost four straight, including getting swept against the lowly Rays this past weekend. The four-game skid has dropped them back to a .500 record at 52-52. The Mets were also on a four-game losing streak before yesterday’s comeback victory, as they head in with a 54-50 record.

Game One (Monday, August 1 at 7:10 PM ET) | NYY @ NYM
C.C. Sabathia (6-8, 3.95 ERA) vs. Logan Verrett (3-6, 4.12 ERA)
CC Sabathia, 36, has been a surprisingly serviceable starter for the Yankees this season. After a horrendous 2015 season that included alcohol problems as well, he has since bounced back. He had a recent six-game streak where he sported a 7.46 ERA and allowed at least four runs in all of those starts. In his other 12 starts on the season, he has allowed just 18 runs in 72 innings, good for a 2.25 ERA. He also has the second-best WAR (1.5) on the Yankees pitching staff behind Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees have the advantage in this first game of the series with C.C. on the mound.

Verrett is probably the unknown of this Mets rotation, as he has provided the Mets with needed rotation depth this season. The former Rangers pitcher has a concerning 1.41 WHIP on the season. He has appeared in 27 games and made nine starts, as four of them were quality starts. He has been quite better out of the bullpen though, as he has a 2.81 ERA in 25.2 innings. As a starter, his ERA jumps to 4.81 in 48.2 innings. His depth has been needed after Matt Harvey’s disappointing season came to an end.

Game Two (Tuesday, August 2 at 7:10 PM ET) | NYY @ NYM
Masahiro Tanaka (7-3, 3.16 ERA) vs. Jacob deGrom (6-5, 2.56 ERA)
Tanaka’s past five starts have come against Lance McCullers, Madison Bumgarner, David Price, Carlos Carrasco, and now Jacob deGrom, showing the kind of pitchers he has to face every time out. He once again will have to be brilliant to give the Yankees a chance to win. Before getting outperformed by McCullers in his past outing, the Yankees had won Tanaka’s past seven starts. He pitched to a 2.45 ERA in July, but hasn’t pitched more than six innings in his past four starts. His 3.16 ERA for the season is tied for sixth in the AL. With the Yankees’ dominant bullpen trio no longer intact, look for Girardi to trust Tanaka to go later in games.
Photo Credit: Bob Levey | Getty Images
deGrom has been an ace for almost two years now, as he made the NL All-Star squad in 2015 and reportedly declined the invitation this season. He has a 1.82 ERA over his last six starts (five of them quality starts), and five of those eight runs allowed in that period came in his start against the Marlins. He has been much better at home, as he has a 2.18 ERA at Citi Field compared to an ERA of 3.02 on the road. This matchup features two top-notch starters, as deGrom and Tanaka are their team’s number one starters, so this game will most likely be a pitcher’s duel.

Game Three (Wednesday, August 3 at 7:05 PM ET) | NYM @ NYY
Ivan Nova (7-6, 4.90 ERA) vs. Steven Matz (8-7, 3.35 ERA)
After a recent hot streak, Nova returned to his normal self, allowing five early runs against one of the worst teams in baseball, the Rays. Nova was discussed as a potential player the Yankees would trade, but many sources around baseball stated that he wasn’t any more than a “throw in” after his sporadic start at Tropicana Field. In the last year of his contract, many fans hope that he is in a different uniform next season. He, like the whole pitching staff, has struggled mightily with inconsistencies and lack of distance he gives the Yankees every start.

Matz has been a very good middle-of-the-rotation for the Mets since arriving in the big leagues last season. He took the league by storm in 2015, pitching to a 2.27 ERA in six starts in the regular season, as he also made three solid starts in the postseason. Matz’s 3.35 ERA is 18th in the NL, which is very good for a third/fourth starter. He has been quite average in night games though, pitching to just a 4.42 ERA. In day games, he has allowed just seven runs in 41.2 innings (1.51 ERA). Despite Matz’s struggles at night, look for the Mets to have the pitching advantage in game three.

Game Four (Thursday, August 4 at 7:05 PM ET) | NYM @ NYY
Nathan Eovaldi (9-7, 4.78 ERA) vs. Bartolo Colon (9-6, 3.58 ERA)
After a great start to the season, Eovaldi was praised by many fans for his improvement from last season to this season. It has been a roller-coaster ever since, as he saw his ERA rise to the mid-5.00s at one point. His team-leading nine wins are quite misleading, as he continues to get very good run support compared to the other Yankee starters. Since the All-Star break though, he has had a 2.79 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance. Mentioned in trade rumors, the former Marlins pitcher still hasn’t lived up to all his hype, as he continues to struggle with his secondary pitches. His 3.42 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) from last season has marginally increased to a 4.90 this season. Like Colon, he leads the Yankees pitching staff in home runs allowed, with a career-high 21 on the season (after allowing 10 in 2015). Expect to see plenty of long balls in this pitching matchup.

At age 43, Bartolo is still a solid, reliable starter for the Mets. In the month of June, Bartolo was easily the best starter in the Mets rotation, as he allowed just 5 ER in 27 innings pitched (1.67 ERA). He is coming off a rough July though, as he had just one quality start in his five outings and had a 5.51 ERA for the month. His biggest problem all season has been the home run ball, as he’s allowed 17 of them (eight in July), six more than the next Met starter. Here at Yankee Stadium, he could struggle plenty with the short porch in right field.
Photo Credit: Mike Stobe | Getty Images
Three players to watch for the Yankees:
1. Carlos Beltran
Not only is he a player to watch because of his tremendous All-Star season, but also because he is a former Met, notorious for his postseason play with the crosstown rival. It will also be interesting to see if he is moved to another team at all, as many teams have been interested in him. Now, at age 39, he is still playing great offense, having one of the best seasons in his potential Hall of Fame career. His defense has been suspect, as he is way past his Gold Glove days, but he has hit for average and power. Heading in, Beltran leads the team in just about every major category, as he has a .304 average along with 22 homers and 64 RBIs. His leadership in the clubhouse has also been crucial to the development of young Yankee players, such as Didi Gregorius, Austin Romine, and Rob Refsnyder.
Photo Credit: Brian Blanco | Getty Images
2. Aaron Hicks
This past offseason, Yankee fans, myself included, were thrilled with the low-risk, potentially high-reward trade with the Twins. Traded for John Ryan Murphy, who was expendable with Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez behind him, Hicks has disappointed in his first season in the Bronx. As highlighted in my recent article, Hicks is not a good baseball player at this point in his career. He supposedly has loads of potential, but has yet to show it at the big league level. He has gotten his fair share of opportunities as well, as Girardi continually puts him in the starting lineup regularly. His slash line so far is an atrocious .187/.251/.287 and he’s even worse with runners in scoring position, as he is just 9-52 in those situations this season. If he doesn’t improve his game in the coming months, look for him to possibly start the 2017 season in Triple-A.

3. Rob Refsnyder
The reason Refsnyder is a player to watch in this series and the rest of the season is, like Hicks, his performance down the stretch could determine the role he has on the team next season. He has cooled off quite a bit since a solid start, as his average is down to a pedestrian .252 in 107 ABs. He heads into this series just three for his last 22. He is also batting just .205 in 39 ABs at Yankee Stadium, compared to an average of .279 on the road. He has provided the Yankees with flexibility off the bench, as he can primarily play second base obviously, along with first base and left and right field.

Three players to watch for the Mets:
1. Curtis Granderson
The once beloved Yankee outfielder, Granderson has still hit for power with the Mets. Despite his 16 homers that rank third on the team, he has just 29 RBIs, an amazingly low amount. This is partially due to the lackluster offense around him, but he is also a home run or bust type of hitter now. He heads into the series struggling this past week, as he’s just one for his last 15 over the past four games. His home run potential is threatening to the Yankee rotation, especially at Yankee Stadium, where he has hit 68 of his career homers.

2. Yoenis Cespedes
This guy is the do-all for the Mets offense, leading them in BA, HRs, RBIs, OBP, and hits. It’s hard to imagine where this team would be without the Cuban outfielder. Along with his top notch offense, he has a cannon of an arm in the outfield, although he does have four errors on the season. His 22 homers rank tied for ninth in the NL and he’s seventh in slugging percentage (.555). He is also the Mets’ most clutch hitter, as he easily has the best average with runners in scoring position (.284). If the Yankees can limit the damage Cespedes causes, they will have a much easier time with the rest of the lineup.

3. Neil Walker
Throughout his career with the Pirates and now the Mets, Walker has been one of the more consistent second basemen in baseball, yet he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Signed this offseason to a one-year, $10.55 million contract, he has been the second best hitter for the Mets all season. The Mets decided to let Daniel Murphy walk, who is a current MVP candidate for the Nationals, but don’t discredit what Walker has done for a struggling offense. In Sunday’s ballgame, his three-run homer off of former Yankee left-hander Boone Logan was the deciding factor in their victory, as he also had an RBI triple in the first inning. Often batting in the two hole, it’s crucial for him to reach base with Cespedes coming up behind him.

Three things to watch for:
1. How will newly acquired Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard fare out of the bullpen?
The Yankees have a new look bullpen, after trading away Chapman and Miller for prospects. To replace the two’s roles, they acquired Adam Warren from the Cubs and Tyler Clippard for the Diamondbacks. Despite struggling with the Cubs this season before getting traded, expect Warren to once again be a key component of the Yankees bullpen because of the help they need and how successful he was in his first stint in the Bronx. He can provide long relief work, spot starts when needed, and even be relied upon as a seventh-inning guy, like last season when Girardi used the Warren-Betances-Miller trio several times. His versatility is something that the Yanks have been missing all season and he was one of the few relievers Girardi trusted last season. He has pitched two scoreless innings thus far since arriving from Chicago. Clippard is also in his second stint with the Yankees, as he was drafted by the team back in 2003. This is the 31 year-old’s fourth team in the past two seasons. He is a two-time All-Star with the Nationals and was with the Mets for their playoff run last season. Although he’s statistically having a down year, the veteran will greatly help the Yankees in his role at the end of games (most likely the eighth inning).

2. Yankees pitching staff vs. Mets offense
This will be an interesting matchup as it’s an inconsistent rotation vs. a below-average offense. The Yankees pitching staff has been quite better since the All-Star break. Other than Sabathia’s struggles since then, the three other starters featured in this series have been quite good since. For the season, they have an overall ERA of 4.61. On the other hand, the Mets offense ranks 29th in runs scored (375) and last in batting average (.238). They also rely on the home run ball more than any other team in baseball, as their 132 home runs is 10th in the MLB and third in the NL. They have struggled in this department since the break though, as they have just 10 (tied for 26th). Whomever has the advantage in this matchup will be a major deciding factor in all four games.

3. Mets’ underrated bullpen trio
Along with a stellar rotation, the Mets also possess a very good bullpen. This is headed by their underrated trio of Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed, and Jeurys Familia. Hansel Robles has also been very good out of the bullpen for the Mets. Before yesterday, Blevins, Reed, and Robles had all not allowed a run since the All-Star break. Familia, on the other hand, has struggled to a 6.14 ERA since then and recently had his 52-game streak of converting saves snapped. Reed’s 25 holds is the best in the NL (second in baseball behind Dellin Betances) and Familia’s 36 saves are by far the best in all of baseball. Although the average baseball fan might not know a few of these names out of the bullpen, they have turned out to be one of the best in baseball. The Yankees offense will need to jump on the starting pitching of the Mets, as these four relievers are dominant. As a whole, their 3.21 ERA ranks fifth in all of baseball.

In this four-game Subway Series, each team is pretty evenly matched. The Yankees avoid two of the Mets’ presumed stud pitchers, Matt Harvey (who struggled all year and is sidelined for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury) and Noah Syndergaard. With the Mets still battling for a wild card spot, this should be a competitive series that has something on the line. The Mets have one of the worst offenses in baseball, but also one of the better rotations and bullpens in the MLB. They rank third in starters ERA (3.43) and fourth in quality starts (61). Historically, the Yankees are almost always the favorites in this series, but this season’s series could go either way. The first two games will take place at Citi Field, while the last two will be at Yankee Stadium. With the Mets’ injuries and the Yankees’ inconsistencies, I expect these two to split the series in four.

Article by: Spencer Schultz
Follow me on Twitter @SpenceSchultz63
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