This year, for the first time ever, the Mets and Yankees will be playing a four-game series with two games in Queens and two in the Bronx. After complaints from fans and new changes to the schedule this year, Bud Selig was forced to shorten these marquee interleague rivalries from six games to four. That’s probably a good thing for the Mets considering how good the Yankees are this year, and how bad the Mets have played thus far.
This year, the Yankees have been devastated by injuries. In fact, the payroll of those players on the DL is approaching $100 million, which is higher than the actual payroll of about half of baseball. Nonetheless, against all odds, the Yankees are tied for first place atop the American League East at 30-19. They haven’t scored as many runs as a typical Yankee team would, and they are actually the lowest-scoring team in the division, but they have gotten stellar pitching from both the bullpen and starting rotation. Andy Pettitte returned and has continued to be a rock the Yankees can rely on. C.C. Sabathia has been a workhorse, tossing 72.2 innings in 11 starts. Thankfully, however, the Mets will not have to face either of those two as they get the bottom of the rotation. The bottom half is still nothing to joke about, as Hiroki Kuroda and David Phelps each have sub-four ERAs in the still-tough AL East.
The bullpen hasn’t been as good as the rotation, but it’s been one of the better units in the game, even after losing Rafael Soriano to free agency last offseason. The ‘pen ranks 11th in baseball in ERA and fourth in batting average agains with men on base. Mariano Rivera hasn’t pitched at all like a 43 year-old, posting a 1.40 ERA in 19.1 innings this year. He has given up just 14 hits and two walks while striking out 16. He hasn’t allowed a run since May 4 against Oakland.
All in all, this team is one of the best the Mets have faced all season, even despite the injuries the Yankees have suffered. It could be a long four days.
Game 1: Jon Niese, LHP (3-5, 4.80 ERA, 54.1 IP, 5.1 K/9, 4.5 BB/9) vs. Phil Hughes, RHP (2-3, 5.51 ERA, 47.1 IP, 8.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9)
Hughes has been inconsistent over his seven-year career with the Yankees, and has some convinced that his best role would be in the bullpen. After posting a 4.23 ERA in 191.1 innings last season, Hughes’s ERA has gone up, and is now at 5.51. His strikeout and walk numbers are right where they should be, but he is giving up more home runs than ever, almost two per nine innings. He is getting hurt badly on his fastball which, after being average last year, has been worth about seven runs below average this season, meaning hitters are hitting it, and hitting it hard. He has already given up ten homers on the season, eight of which have come off fastballs.
Kuroda, even at age 38, has continued to dominate. Despite moving to the American League two years ago, he has held steady. This season, his ERA is a career-best 2.67 through ten starts. He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys, but he gets ground balls more frequently than most without allowing many walks. And unlike Hughes, Kuroda hasn’t given up many home runs this year, despite pitching most of his games at Yankee Stadium.
Phelps, 26, slowly pitched his way through the minors after being taken in the 14th round in the 2008 draft, and pitched well at every level before earning a promotion to the big leagues last year. He started 11 games due to injuries in the starting rotation, and posted a very solid 3.34 ERA. This season, he again got the nod due to injury, and has a 3.27 ERA as a starter. In his last start in Tampa Bay, his pitching arm was struck by a line drive. However, he suffered only a bruise and will most likely be out there for his start on Wednesday.
Nuno, a 48th-round pick, isn’t a big name, but has certainly earned an opportunity with his domination of the minors the past two seasons. After bouncing around for a while, even pitching for an independent league team, Nuno, posted a 2.54 ERA in 21 starts between Single-A and Double-A last year. This season, he had a 1.54 ERA in four starts before earning the promotion. So far, he has been a solid option for the Yankees as a swingman.
- Curtis Granderson, who just got back from the DL, will have to sit out another month thanks to a broken finger he suffered earlier this week after getting hit in the hand by a pitch. Granderson hit 43 home runs last season. However, he only batted .232 (compared to .262 in 2011) and struck out in 28.5 % of his trips to the plate.
- Lucas Duda extended his hitting streak to a career-best 10 games going 3-4 last night…Duda is hitting .351 (13-37) during his run, which dates to May 16…His previous best was a seven-game hitting streak done two previous times, last, June 16-24, 2012.
- David Wright is tied with Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd for the most regular season home runs by a Met against the Yankees with eight.
- Bobby Parnell converted his fifth straight save chance last night in New York’s 4-2 win vs. Atlanta…Parnell is 3-1 with five saves in May and has been unscored upon in 10 of his 11 games this month.
- Daniel Murphy has at least one hit in 11 of his last 14 games,batting .400 (22-55) with two home runs and eight RBI over that clip.Murphy has 15 doubles, tied for the second-most in the NL…He has seven doubles this month, tied for the sixth-most in the NL…Since the start of the 2012 season, Murphy has 55 doubles, the third-most in the National League, two behind Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt and one behind Milwaukee’s Aramis Ramirez.
- Since 2009, the Mets are 0-3-1 in season series vs. the Yankees…The Mets have dropped five straight individual series to their crosstown rival…The last series the Mets won was May 21-23, 2010 at Citi Field…The last time the Mets won the season series vs. the Yankees was in 2008 (4-2)…The Mets are 2-8-6 in all-time season series against the Yankees.
- The Mets along with the other 29 teams will wear specially designed caps and jerseys featuring an authentic military digital camouflage design licensed from the United States Marine Corps tonight…MLB will donate 100 percent of its net proceeds from sales of the caps and jerseys to Welcome Back Veterans…Since 2008, MLB has committed $23 million to Welcome Back Veterans.