(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
This weekend’s Subway Series was a big moment for the Mets, as are all the times they play the Yankees.
Here are 7 takeaways from the weekend, in honor of the subway line that comes to their ballpark.
1) It’s the same old song
The Mets entered the series in better shape in terms of their division race than the Yankees, as they have a comfortable lead over the Nationals and the Yankees are chasing the Blue Jays, while holding a wild card spot.
Through it all, the Mets have been the talk of the town lately. The pressure was on them to beat the Yankees and validate the run they have been on.
It always seems like the Subway Series is when the Mets want to make that statement and beat the Yankees and they never can close the deal.
In April, they entered Yankee Stadium on an 11-game winning streak and lost two of three without much fight. They went into a tailspin afterward and barely were able to hold .500 through late July, before the reinforcements came in.
This series started out well for the Mets, as they got a 5-1 win behind a strong outing from Steven Matz and homers from Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda on Friday night. The script was reversed on Saturday when Carlos Beltran got a three-run homer in the first inning and the Yankees rolled to a 5-0 victory with Michael Pineda getting a strong outing.
Sunday night was the showcase the Mets were waiting for, with a playoff-like atmosphere and Mike Piazza throwing the first pitch. The pitching matchup was also favorable, as Matt Harvey faced off with CC Sabathia.
The Mets were only able to get one run off Sabathia, an RBI double from David Wright in the first inning. Harvey went five innings, and allowed no runs on just one hit, with seven strikeouts.
The floodgates opened when the Mets turned to the bullpen and brought in Hansel Robles. Carlos Beltran got a two-run double and Dustin Ackley got a three-run homer to make it 5-1 and that let the air out of the building.
Citi Field emptied out soon after as the Yankees continued to pull away. It became a real blowout in the eighth inning when Greg Bird knocked a three-run homer that made it 11-1 Yankees.
The Mets always come up small in these spots, no matter what the situation is or who the Yankees put on the field.
2) Cespedes is human
Yoenis Cespedes has been the talk of the town since he arrived, and with good reason. He is the reason the Mets are here, and is even in the conversation for National League Most Valuable Player. He has 17 home runs, 42 RBI, and 36 runs scored in his 45 games with the Mest since he was traded here from Detroit on July 31st.
But he is human, and humans have slumps. He broke an 0-for-18 stretch when he doubled in the fifth inning on Sunday night. Mets Manager Terry Collins said of Cespedes’ slump after Saturday’s game, “He went through this another time when he went into a little bit of a funk and then he came out of it and when he came out of it, he was red hot. One of the coaches brought up during the game that he was 0-for-15 since they (the Marlins) drilled him, so, I don’t think he is afraid by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ll just keep running him out there.”
Collins continued, “We’ve seen this stretch where he’s had three or four bad games in a row and everybody is shaking their head. I got guys running in, ‘Oh, you need to give him a day off.’ I’d go to talk to him and he’d say, ‘No, I’m fine.’ Right now, he’s not hitting the ball like he did for that long stretch. We’re going to take him out of the two-hole and put him someplace else to see if we can get some guys on ahead of him. Maybe that will help out.”
David Wright said of Cespedes’ slump, “Ces was so good for an extended period of time. Unless you want him to hit .500 with a hundred home runs for the year, which his pace was, you are inevitably going to slow down a little bit.”
3) Harvey and the “perfect storm”
Mets Manager Terry Collins said on Saturday of how he feels when Harvey starts, “He’s Matt Harvey, I always feel good! When I come to the ballpark and he’s pitching, there’s a smile on my face and I always think…he gets up for these kinds of games. It’s a Sunday night game, national TV, big audience, big crowd, the Yankees, he loves to pitch against the Yankees, and I expect him to step up. Unfortunately, he’ll have some reins on him. I just want him to go out there and pitch as long as I let him pitch, and pitch well.”
Harvey took the mound on Sunday night for the first time in 12 days, after a lackluster outing in Washington on September 8th, when he allowed seven runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. This start also came after the whole issue of his innings limit came up and whether Harvey would pitch at all in the postseason.
Harvey did the job, as he did not allow the Yankees a thing. He dominated for five innings and allowed just one hit and a walk, while striking out seven.
The problem was that he had to be lifted after five innings due to the dreaded innings limit, and Collins revealed after the game that they agreed to five innings before he took the mound.
A dejected Collins said of how Harvey pitched and taking him out when he did, “Well, I mean, it was a perfect storm, the same thing we talked about the other day when we knew we were going to have to do something like this. I said, this guy’s gonna pitch, he’s gonna have two hits, he’s gonna have eight strikeouts, and to add to the storm, he has to hit the inning before with a runner in scoring position knowing he’s got one more inning, so I couldn’t set it up any worse than it was.”
Collins said of what he was thinking when the Yankees blew it open, “You don’t want to know what I was thinking, but you might want to know, but I can’t tell you.”
On the plan for Harvey, Collins said, “We came into the game with the plan in place that he was going to go five innings. We weren’t all that concerned with the pitch counts, although we were not going to let him get real deep in pitch counts. We didn’t have any number in hand, except mid-80s tops, so we were hoping that, early in the game, I told Dan (Warthen), if he can really keep the pitch count really under control, like go into the sixth inning with 62, 63 pitches, we’ll push him one more and gets us deeper into the bullpen. We hadsaid if he only goes five, we’ll go (Hansel) Robles, (Addison) Reed, (Tyler) Clippard, and (Jeurys) Familia and see where we are, and we never got there.
4) Mets’ long-tenured players step up
Friday night, the two biggest hits the Mets got came from homegrown, long-tenured players. Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy each got solo homers, with Duda’s coming in the second and Murphy’s in the sixth.
Murphy said of his homer and Tanaka, “It was nice because of the way their starter can throw the ball. He’s as tough as they come. You really got to lock in on him. He chewed me up and spit me out on a couple of times tonight, there’s no doubt about that.”
This was Murphy’s latest clutch homer, with his other one a three-run, game-tying shot in the ninth inning on September 13th in Atlanta. For the season, he has put up nice numbers, with a .274 average, 12 home runs, and 64 RBI.
Duda needed this home run, as he has been mired in a slump, hitting just .194 (6-31) since being activated from the disabled list on September 7th. He has had an inconsistent season overall, hitting just .243 with 22 home runs and 58 RBI.
5) Addison Reed making his case in Mets bullpen
Addison Reed has done very well since the Mets brought him in from Arizona on August 30th. He continued that with a stellar outing Friday night.
Reed came in to pitch the eighth inning, and he started it off by striking out Carlos Beltran on a rising fastball. He then got Brian McCann to pop out in foul territory to third base, and closed the inning by striking out Greg Bird.
Reed has not allowed a run in 10 inning with the Mets, and the power pitcher has notched 13 strikeouts. Since July 29th, he has allowed just three runs over 26 1/3 innings (1.03 ERA), with 5 walks and 27 strikeouts.
6) Citi Field comes alive
Citi Field didn’t have much energy until the series in early August when the Mets swept the Nationals to tie them for the division lead.
The party atmosphere has only continued since then, especially this weekend with the Yankees in Queens. On Friday night, it was a sellout crowd of 43,602. On Saturday, the sellout crowd of 43,630 was the second-largest Mets crowd in Citi Field history. Sunday night’s attendance was 43,571, the fourth-largest crowd in Citi Field history.
The 130,803 people who attended the three games is the largest attendance for a three-game series, surpassing the 2011 Subway Series.
The Mets now have seven sellouts this season, the most in Citi Field history, surpassing the five sellouts in the park’s inaugural year, 2009.
Mets Manager Terry Collins said of Citi Field, “When the place gets loud, you know about it. The players talk about it.”
7) Don’t panic Mets fans
Though losing two of three this weekend, and four of six in the season Subway Series, the Mets hold a six-game lead on the Nationals with just 13 games remaining. The magic number is just 8 to clinch the National League East for the first time since 2006.