I’m trying to remember — was last night the first time ever that Yankees fans rooted for the Mets and vice versa? The two teams helped each other out by whipping the others’ division rivals, and in doing so, I think, helped give good definition of their teams’ respective character.
The Mets, beating Tampa Bay 7-2, bounced back nicely from their recent slide of six losses in seven games. But I don’t think that seven-game stretch was as bad as most of the press seem to think.
Two of the losses — the first game in the Washington series and the last game against the Yankees — were by one run. Two of the games — the second against Washington and the second against the Yankees — were lost by two runs. The only bad loss was the Santana blowout in the first game at Yankee Stadium; this was the one that was supposed to deflate the Mets, but so far it doesn’t look to me as if that’s happened.
The games did, however, reveal the Mets’ one glaring weakness: the lack of an effective bullpen to finish the work of a surprisingly strong starting corps.
The Mets keep coming up with fresh blood who rise to the occasion, like Chris Young (who at age 33 isn’t exactly young blood). In his second start of the season Tuesday, Young stifled the Rays in an 11-2 victory.
If the season ended right now, David Wright — who is hitting .352 with an on-base average of .454 — would be an MVP candidate. The amazing R.A. Dickey might be the Cy Young favorite with a 9-1 record, a 2.44 ERA, and — here’s the stat that causes you to blink — 78 strikeouts to 19 walks.
Tonight, Dickey goes against David Price, who’s 8-3, in what could be one of the best pitching matchups in the entire season. If Dickey shuts the Rays down, I think he’s the leading Cy Young candidate. No: if Dickey wins, make that the leading MVP candidate.
Mets fans should be rooting for the Yankees to sweep the Braves tonight in Atlanta with Hiroki Kuroda, who completely outpitched Johan Santana last Friday and has been much better this year than his 5-6 record. (His ERA is 3.42 — he should probably be something like 7-4.) His opponent is the eternal Tim Hudson, 4-2 with a 3.83 ERA. This is not as good a matchup as Dickey-Price, but it should be good enough to keep the TV flipping back and forth.
Last night, A-Rod’s grand slammer and Nick Swisher’s 2-run shot bailed out C.C. Sabathia, and I can’t help but think if the Yankees are beginning to wonder if the real C.C.is going to show up. Or perhaps what we’re seeing now is the real C.C.
You could make a betting pool around the question of how many runs he’s going to give up in the first inning — last night it was three.
And yes, he does dig in and give you several innings after a bad first. But watching him struggle his way through the fifth and sixth — and watching the pitch count go up — is like watching a character in a Beckett play try to crawl across stage.
After all that nonsense about the Red Sox eating fried chicken in the clubhouse last year, you look at Sabathia on the mound and you wonder what in hell the Yankees have to eat in their locker room.
Oh well. I see the cavalry starting to rise over yonder hill and hear an ebullient “Roll Tide!” as Dave Robertson heads back to the team. (He’s reporting back today and should be reactivated Friday.) If Robertson comes back like his early self, the Yankees will have the best eighth and ninth inning tandem in baseball. Who will do the holding and who will do the closing: Robertson or Soriano? Flip a coin. Say, wouldn’t the Mets like to have a bullpen problem like that?