Subway Series, Fall 2021: a new wrinkle to an old rivalry

The Mets need their 2020 offense back, starting this weekend.

by Paul West

Going into this weekend’s umpteenth edition of the regular season Subway Series, an old rivalry gets a slightly new twist. For perhaps the first time–or, at least, to the greatest degree–since they met in the 2000 World Series, the Mets & Yankees’ postseason hopes seem to mutually exclude.

Both teams (moreso the Mets) could really use a sweep; the Yankees have backslid for a week and a half after blazing a trail back into contention, and the Mets have scuffled against the NL’s worst teams–also on the heels of clawing their way within a few games of a playoff spot. Both teams (again, moreso the Mets) need to win at least two of three, and losing three would be disastrous for both. What does this mean? It means that what’s generally been an occasionally salty but mostly friendly rivalry will have a bit of extra zest. Both teams really need these games; and both teams have reasons to think they can win the weekend.

The Yankees’ path to victory is what it’s been for most of the season: power. The Mets have been bitten by the home run bug at inopportune times all season, most recently in the form of Jazz Chisolm‘s moonshot last night; and two of their starters this weekend are Taijuan Walker & Carlos Carraso, who’ve pitched well but have been haunted by home runs. The Mets will have to make sure that any longballs are solo shots–and hope that Citi Field’s more spacious dimensions will prevent the 315-foot pull shots that often benefit the Bombers in the Bronx.

The Yankees will head to Citi Field without the use of the DH, which could hurt their production.

In an unusual twist, the Mets are happy to not have the DH in a series; that’s because the Yankees’ lineup can be DH-dependent, especially when they opt to get Brett Gardner in the lineup and have Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge simply hit. Normally, the Mets would look forward to a chance to use the DH and get JD Davis, Dom Smith, and Pete Alonso into the same lineup; but their lineup has underproduced all year, and their best production of late has come from the likes of Kevin Pillar and Jonathan Villar. Last season, especially in the second half, a chance to stack their lineup without sacrificing defense would thrill Mets fans; not so much this year, at least until their core components return to form.

If the Mets–who need these games a bit more than the similarly desperate Yankees–are going to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot, they have to win at least two this weekend but really want to take all three. They’ll face a team that’s strikeout-prone and one-dimensional on offense, with limited team speed and a reliance on a hitter-friendly home park. At this particular point in both teams’ seasons, the matchup looks fairly even but could be argued to favor the Mets; then again, they faced a favorable matchup in Florida, and scraped their way through the week. It’s mid-September, and we have a Subway Series with a lot on the line for both teams…which is, at least, a win for the fans.

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