by Paul West
The Mets have gained ground in recent weeks, rising in the power rankings and passing the Yankees in the battle for NYC baseball bragging rights; they took 3 of 4 from the Phillies in a series of hard-fought epics, despite losing two starting pitchers to injury and facing Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler. The Yankees come in having won only 3 of their last 13 games and 4 of their last 19, while losing six consecutive series and watching their formerly prohibitive division lead shrink to under ten games. As Aaron Boone vents his frustration in front of the press and the prevailing narrative shifts to impending gloom, the Yankees still come in with an 8-game lead while the Mets’ lead sits at half that number.
The Mets might be the hotter team, but they’re also the team with more to lose.
Max Scherzer on the mound doesn’t necessarily guarantee a Met victory isn’t necessarily a sure thing, either; despite putting up strong numbers as usual, he hasn’t seemed his usual dominant self in his past couple of starts and the Yankees are power-laden even when they’re struggling. The Yankees, meanwhile, recovered a slight bit of momentum and confidence in yesterday’s 4-2 sweep-averting win over the Blue Jays; they’ll be looking to build on that, and fueled by the angst of a month-long swoon and intensifying scrutiny.
The Mets’ key to victory will be the same as it’s been: take it game by game, play by play, and pitch by pitch, and ignore narratives that predict their glory and their doom. They’re the better team at the moment, as well as by far the hotter team–but the last thing they want to do it let those facts condition their thinking. Atlanta is still uncomfortably close in their rearview, and they’re headed to Pittsburgh to play the bottom-tier Pirates.
The good news? The aforementioned fact that Scherzer is on the hill tonight, and Jacob deGrom is scheduled for tomorrow. They have an off day Wednesday, and the middling Colorado Rockies come to CIti Field starting Thursday, meaning they can use Edwin Diaz and their primary relievers as needed because a rest day approaches. But their first order of business is to keep their eyes on the road and ignore the noise surrounding a series that’s as big as many people say, but not for the reasons many people think.