Take a look because it’s nice to be in first place
New York Yankees: 64-28 +13.0
New York Mets: 58-35 + 2.5
Halftime for baseball and I am borrowing a phrase from other sports with the second half resuming Thursday. Look again, first place looks good for the Yankees and Mets, though I would not look ahead and predict a Subway Series in October.
That was 2000, remember, the center of attention was New York…New York…I recall Bob Costas, then the lead caller for NBC Sports saying loud and clear when the Mets sealed the deal, “New York, New York, you have a World Series.”
If I had to place a bet, the Yankees stand a better chance of representing the AL in October then the Mets being there with them as the NL team. Then again, an August 2 trade deadline could change the complexion of the Mets, along with 20 other teams in contention with the expanded wild card format.
Regardless, Mets and Yankees fans have every reason to be optimistic. The Yankees will breeze to another AL East title. On the other hand, expect the Mets and Atlanta Braves to battle for the NL East division crown.
Significant because the expanded playoff format this year guarantees an automatic first round bye in the postseason. So, first place right now looks good in New York and could conclude that way in early October. No brainer here, the Yankees will not have an epic collapse and could finish with 110 wins or more.
The outlook based on the first half and how this has developed:
Mets: Their starting rotation held its own without Jacob deGrom. Max Scherzer missed most of the first half. Yet the Mets with David Peterson, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, Chris Bassitt, Trevor Williams and Tylor Megill had one of the top ERA’s in baseball.
Megill will return in late August or September (right shoulder strain) and deGrom was expected to return this weekend at Citi Field, with the hope that he has recovered from the various arm and elbow issues. A healthy and effective punch of deGrom and Scherzer would fortify the rotation and the Mets would be difficult to beat, but the two time Cy Young Award winner experienced some mild shoulder soreness on Sunday. deGrom had his simulated start pushed back from Tuesday to Thursday. The Mets are keeping their fingers crossed.
Their bullpen will get reinforcements. Expect a trade or two for that late inning bridge to closer Edwin Diaz who has been the premiere closer in baseball with the best strikeout ratio. Fact, the Braves narrowed the gap because the month of June had more than one bullpen horror without an injured Trevor May and Drew Smith giving up too many home run balls.
Overall, though, the starting rotation became a major contributor to this first place position.
The months of April, May, and then June and July have reflected different perspectives here with the lineup. At the beginning there was consistency of scoring with runners in scoring position. The Buck Showalter Mets took their swings and averaged over 4. 4 runs per game and led the league in two-out hits.
But most of June and in a good beginning of this month, two-out hits and scoring runs were hard to find, in particular, seeing no consistency at the DH spot from JD. Davis and Dominic Smith, and a few others in between.
A longtime NL executive, when asked for comment, said he expects the Mets to reinforce at DH. “They will get a bat at the deadline.”
Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Starling Marte became All-Stars and well deserved because they were consistent with driving in runs and getting on base. Brandon Nimmo is probably the most underrated leadoff hitter of the first half.
Juan Soto, I hate to spoil the fun. He will not be traded at this deadline. I highly doubt the Nationals will trade the young superstar to a team in their division. Regardless, a first place Mets team seemed to score more runs before the break, a reinforcement is sure to come, and the four day hiatus had to provide time to recharge and heal from any lingering injuries.
YANKEES: Best record in baseball and a historic first half that rivals the 1998 team. They’re on a record pace for wins, though there was that brief stumble last week losing four of their last five and two of three to the lowly Reds in the Bronx.
But the Yankees offense got revenge on the Red Sox. 27 runs scored in two of three games and that resembled a first half that is only rivaled in the American League by the west division leading Astros.
Oh, those Astros are a thorn in the Yankees side. Yankees visit the Astros for two on Thursday, coming right out of the break, providing again for a possible prelude to the ALCS in October.
Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon, and “Nasty” Nestor Cortes make up a starting rotation with third best ERA in baseball. Though, I would always look at Cole, Cortes and Taillon and their tendency to throw the home run ball that could force an issue in October.
Regardless, never count out a Yankees team that leads baseball in comeback wins and gets to starters and bullpens late in games when coming from behind. Their bullpen, without Aroldis Chapman as the closer, is still solid with the All-Star first halves of Michael King and Clay Holmes. Mention the Yankees tendency to steal more bases and that run differential has improved with less errors that cost more than one game last year,
Easy to understand that they have six All-Stars. Aaron Judge playing for a contract with that Major League leading 33 home runs and Giancarlo Stanton, both ignoring the injured list, and for the first time on the field at the same time. The Yankees lead baseball by a wide margin in hitting the home run ball.
Matt Carpenter, one of the great finds of GM Brian Cashman, has produced 13 home runs in 30 games with the Yankees as a utility player. He was 6-for-15 with three homers, two doubles, 12 RBI including 10 in the two blowouts versus the Red Sox this past weekend.
You can’t find many flaws with a team that has won a majority of their games in the first half but it all matters in October, and the Yankees are expected to get over that hump.
First half for New York baseball, all good. Second half should be just as good.
Rich Mancuso” Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 10pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.