The Mets and Yankees both once held double digit leads in their respective divisions this season. The Mets in the National League East and the Yankees in the AL East. Yet the margins are fleeting. When the MLB schedule began yesterday, the Mets were tied with the Atlanta Braves for first place with identical records of 85-51. The 81-54 Yankees held a 4.5 game lead over the second place Tampa Bay Rays, who stood at 76-58.
The Mets had lost three straight games against two of the worst teams in baseball to relinquish sole possession of first heading into yesterday’s doubleheader on the road versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. They dropped back-to-back games to the Washington Nationals at Citi Field Saturday and Sunday, losing both by 7-1 scores. Then the Mets were soundly beaten by the Pirates 8-2 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The Nationals were 48-88 as of yesterday, last in the NL East, while the Pirates were at the bottom of the NL Central at 50-84.
The Mets’ issues have primarily been a lack of run production. Over their previous nine games, the Mets scored a total of just 24 runs for an average of 2.66 per game. Over that period dating back to Aug. 27 the Mets are 4-5.
Their slide, said manager Buck Showalter on Tuesday, has put the team on notice. “It catches your attention because they’ve been so good for so long, 100-some odd games,” Showalter cited. “You always tip your cap to the opposition but you know, guys are frustrated right now because they know they are capable of better.”
The Mets begin a three-game series with the Marlins in Miami tomorrow then host the Chicago Cubs in Queens for three games next Monday through Wednesday. The Yankees are concluding a five-game series in the Bronx against the Minnesota Twins today ahead of a critically important three-game set versus the Rays at Yankee Stadium this weekend beginning tomorrow.
The Yankees could either see the gap between themselves and the Rays increase or contract as the Major League Baseball slate is in its closing month. Like the Mets, the Yankees were slumping since the end of August. They were 3-6 over their past nine games heading into yesterday’s series ending matchup with the Twins.
Although Aaron Judge is on a historic home run pace, hitting his 54th on Monday in a 5-2 Yankees win over the Twins, putting him only seven behind Roger Maris’ franchise record 61, he hasn’t been able to singularly carry the team which has obvious holes in the lineup, exampled by infielder DJ LaMahieu grappling with a 2-38 plunge at the plate over his last 10 games before Tuesday’s rainout.
It has been the opposite for Judge, who tops the Yankees in every major statistical batting category. In addition to his MLB lead in homers, Judge had 117 RBIs, was hitting .302, had 146 hits and carried an OPS (on-base and slugging percentage) of 1.085, which was also first overall in baseball.
But his outfield mate and designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton has been hampered by various injuries. He missed 28 games with left Achilles tendonitis before coming off of the injured list on Aug. 25 and on Monday fouled a pitch off his foot and ankle. He was listed as day-to-day. First baseman Anthony Rizzo was placed on the 10-day IL yesterday before a doubleheader with the Twins resulting from headaches and a back issue.After taking an epidural shot for back pain, there were concerns that Rizzo’s headaches could be related to the epidural. “We don’t think so based on this, but he had the epidural and now the headaches,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “It’s hard to tell. I know some of the images and stuff were good signs as far as not being that, but I think they’re trying to get heads around exactly why.”