Who says the Subway Series doesn’t have the same “juice” as in the past?
Don’t tell that to the over 42,000 exuberant fans who jammed Citi Field for the start of the 2022 edition of the long-running Subway Series games.
This was actually only the second time the Mets and Yankees faced each other during the regular season with both teams in first place. The first occurrence was in April of 2015, when only 16 games had been played, and both clubs enjoyed early leads at the top of their divisions. The Yankees had a record of 9-7. The Mets were 13-3. Mets fans will recall it as the last season their team made it all the way to the World Series as well, dropping a five-game Fall Classic to the Royals.
This week’s two-game series might appear to be more important to the Mets with the Braves hot on their heels, but the Yankees, while enjoying a healthy lead of 12 and a half games in the AL East, have something to prove to themselves as they come in having lost three of their past five games, and are only 14-13 in their last 27.
After this quick 48-hour battle royale, the two New York clubs don’t face off again until Aug. 22-23 up at Yankee Stadium.
This official in-season Interleague Series began in 1997, when the Mets’ Dave Mlicki shocked the home team at Yankee Stadium with a 6-0 shutout. Overall, the Mets still have a hill to climb to ever get even with their Inter-City rivals.
The Mets are 13-9 vs. the Yankees at Citi Field, 29-36 up in the Bronx, and if you add up all of the regular season contests, combined with spring training, Mayor’s Challenge Games, Mayor’s Trophy Games, what was called the Big Apple Series for a brief period, and that bragging-rights World Series in 2000, the Mets are just 106-144-2.
Last year, the Mets won the season series, 4-2, for the first time since 2013. Francisco Lindor made a significant contribution to that series win, banging out three home runs against the Yankees on Sept. 21st, the 15th time a Met had launched three homers in one game (14th player).
Tonight’s game started out like a Home Run Derby, with Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo reaching the seats in the first inning for the Bronx Bombers (back-to-back), and Starling Marte and Eduardo Escobar returning the favor in the bottom half of the first.
Games between New York teams have a deep history, going back even further than between the Mets and Yankees.
With three clubs in the Golden Era of Big Apple baseball, the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, and Yankees would occasionally get together for some unusual exhibitions.
In April of 1943, the trio got together at Yankee Stadium for an odd double-header to benefit the war effort. With several of the team’s regulars already serving the military, the depleted rosters that effected President Roosevelt’s edict to continue playing baseball to entertain Americans while they sacrificed greatly both in the states and overseas was self-evident.
The Yankees faced the Dodgers in Game 1 on this chilly afternoon, with the winner scheduled to oppose the Giants in Game 2. Brooklyn beat the Bombers, 6-1, and they then had the peculiar opportunity to see the Bums take on the Giants in their ballpark. The Dodgers then swept the weird twin-bill by shutting out the Giants.
Even stranger was another World War II fundraiser on June 26, 1944. Just 20 days after D-Day, the three clubs combined to play a round-robin “game” – and we use that term loosely – in the Polo Grounds, where each team played and batted for six innings, and “rested” for three innings. In the same game?
Over 50,000 fans were fascinated enough by the curiosity to attend, and the pure reality of it was they raised nearly four and half million for the war.
But what a way to earn it. The nine-inning game saw the Yankees playing the Dodgers in the first inning – while sharing the same visitor’s dugout and the Giants in their home dugout – then the Dodgers played the Giants in the second inning, while the Yankees took a break. Then the Yankees played the Giants in the third inning while the Dodgers watched. The Yankees then played the Dodgers again in the fourth inning with the Giants observing. Yeesh!
And on and on went this bizarre ping-pong version of a baseball game. It was labeled the Tri-Cornered Game. Dick Young for the NY Daily News reported this affair as “the wackiest diamond battle ever conceived.”
Another account found the fans “amused and confused.”
The Dodgers came out on top, picking up five runs along the way. The Yankees could only plate one, while the Giants were completely shut out.
Strange as that was, the Dodgers left the stadium before the game was over. They had to catch a train to Chicago for a doubleheader two days later.
Prior to the game, a primitive version of Home Run Derby and other skills competitions was held.
A longest drive battle took place using fungo bats (that’s nearly as bizarre as the actual game) and guess who took home the prize…a pitcher – 18-year-old Dodger hurler Cal McLish hit one 410 feet!
As an aside to that accomplishment, you might not know that McLish’s full birth name was Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish. Makes for lengthy inscriptions on a birthday cake, doesn’t it?
Catchers competed by trying to “throw out runners” aiming at a barrel placed at second base. Dodger backstop Bobby Bragan came the closest to that era’s “barreling up.”
There were foot races, the introduction of former players from previous eras, including Zack Wheat, Herb Pennock, Roger Bresnahan, and Moose McCormick, Al Schact clowned around, and even Milton Berle was on hand as a sort of host to yuk it up with musical entertainment.
Fortunately, none of that craziness found its way into the current edition of the Subway Series. Instead, a classic ballgame ensued, complete with good – and bad – pitching, good – and bad – defense, lots of hits and lots of action on the basepaths.
The Mets won, 6-3, critical to their hold on first place as the Braves beat the Phillies again down the turnpike, 6-3.
Led by that pair of home runs, the Mets scored again in the third when Yankees third baseman hit Francisco Lindor with an errant throw as he was nearing first, allowing Starling Marte to score from second, who had doubled to lead off the frame.
The Yankees inched a bit closer in their fourth. With the bases loaded from two singles and a fielder’s choice, Aaron Hicks scored on a D.J. Lemahieu ground out.
The home team picked up an insurance run in the eighth on a Jeff McNeil single to left after singles by Lindor and Pete Alonso.
Taijuan Walker got the win (now 8-2, 2.67 ERA) with six “dancing-out-of-trouble” innings, yielding seven hits with two strikeouts and a walk.
He had runners on in each of his first four innings, but the only real damage was that first inning pair of longballs.
Mets skipper Buck Showalter attributed it to the long time off of the All-Star break. He hadn’t pitched in ten days.
“Once he settled in, he threw 96, 97. He got on himself a little bit. The last couple of innings were his best.”
Adam Ottavino had another impressive inning-plus appearance and shut down the tough Yankees lineup, giving up just one hit in an inning and two thirds. He lowered his ERA to 2.35.
Edwin Diaz picked up his 22nd save, coming in to stop a Yankee threat in the eighth, and then closing the door in the ninth, striking out four of the six batters he faced.
“He’s a great weapon for us,” said Showalter.
The Yankee’s Jordan Montgomery took the loss (3-3, 3.50). The four runs Montgomery allowed in the first certainly paved the way.
Catch the next stop on this year’s Subway Series Wednesday.