At this juncture of the Subway Series it is more important that the Yankees win these games in September because every win still leaves that slim chance of catching the Blue Jays for the AL east division title. And the Mets are only looking at another win to decrease that magic number and prepare for their first postseason in nine years.
Friday night it went the right way for the Mets. And because baseball is a game that is played everyday, Saturday afternoon at Citi Field it went the Yankees way as they used their formula of pitching and the home run ball in a 5-0 shutout over their crosstown rivals.
Yes it was a vastly different game for the Yankees, and they did not have to come from behind as they tried and failed to do the night before when Masahiro Tanaka gave up the home run ball . The Mets, a team with 39 come from behind wins could not overcome an early deficit and Yankees manager Joe Girardi got a win using a starting pitcher and six other arms out of the bullpen.
With a rubber game set for Sunday night, and with so few games left to play, this once meaningless series that is meant more for for the fans, has another significant game to be played. And a win for either the Mets or Yankees has more meaning than bragging rights as to who is the best.
Because there is a magic number that needs to be reached for the Mets ,and because the Yankees with 14 games left to play have hopes of still chasing Toronto for first place,bragging rights is not the agenda this September.
As for Girardi, lifting his starter Michael Pineda with one out in the sixth inning with two on base, this game was vastly different. Pineda was throwing scoreless ball at that point, but every game is important and going to the bullpen meant how important it was to get this win.
Even going as far as using his setup man Dellin Betances and the closer Andrew Miller, that was how important this was and different. Logic would say with a 5-0 lead that using key components of the pen in this game was not necessary. But Girardi plays the percentages with full knowledge that the Mets are that comeback type of team.
“We’ve got to win ballgames,” Brian McCann said. “That’s the mindset.” McCann hit one of two home runs off Mets’ starter Noah Syndergaard in the sixth inning with two on, his 26th that leads all catchers in the major leagues. It also extended that Yankees lead to 5-0. Carlos Beltran hit a three run homer off Syndergaard in the first inning, his 16th and 389th of his career.
The mindset to McCann and the Yankees is to win as many as they can. Three games remain with the Blue Jays beginning Monday night up in Toronto so one can understand the logic of making sure to get this win. And the Yankees hope to remain in distance, all of course depending on what happens Sunday, because if the Blue Jays lose and the Yankees take the finale, the deficit is 3-½ games.
The Girardi strategy worked. After Justin Wilson walked Daniel Murphy to load the bases he struck out David Wright, and Juan Uribe who pinched hit for a suddenly hot Lucas Duda, and that started a string of seven straight Mets going down by strikeout of which four came from Wilson.
A bullpen that may have been prematurely taxed? They did not give up a hit until a pair of them in the ninth off Chris Martin. Going that extra mile and using Miller to get the final out, could have some significance Sunday night and with those three games up in Toronto.
“My hope was I didn’t have to use him” Girardi said about deploying Miller. “This was a game you can’t afford to give away.” So getting this win was different, but it is September baseball and managers with expanded rosters have that liberty of having more than enough arms in the pen.
Now it is up to CC Sabathia to give the Yankees some distance in the finale of this series. And if Sabathia and that knee brace cooperate, and if the Yankees use the home run ball that they are made for, there will be no questions about the strategy that Girardi used Saturday that made this game different.
They may get that opportunity if Matt Harvey rules apply. They could see 70 pitches or five innings from Harvey, but Mets manager Terry Collins said, “There is no pitch count. He’s not going deep in the game. He’s Matt Harvey I always feel good when he’s pitching.”
That is not a case for Girardi to be concerned about. His main concern is getting the wins, after all this is September and going to the big dance in October.