The Subway Serious starts again tonight with a little more juice than usual because both teams are playing well. The Yanks want to avoid getting swept and winning two-of-three would be great, of course.
Since starting the season 5-13, the Mets have gone 36-27 (.571), a winning percentage that, over the full season, would put them in first place in the Central and Western divisions of either league and in second-place in either Wild Card race. Prior to running into Justin Verlander Thursday afternoon, the Mets had won six of their last seven, four of those coming against first-place American League teams, and in the four games prior to facing Verlander they scored 52 runs (an average of 13 per game).
So the Mets, despite recent appearances, are no laughing matter. Jose Reyes is having an MVP-quality season. Carlos Beltran has come all the way back, at least at the plate. Angel Pagan has hit .325/.398/.444 since coming off the disabled list in late May. Ronny Paulino has put up similar numbers in wrestling the catching job away from sophomore Josh Thole. Jason Bay has hit .327/.389/.490 over the last two weeks and has become a Russell Martin-like stealth threat on the bases having stolen eight bases in nine attempts this season, including four in as many tries in those last two weeks. As you’ll see below, the three starting pitchers the Yankees will face in this series, Jonathan Niese, Dillon Gee, and R.A. Dickey, have all been pitching well of late.
Gardner has reached base in 10 out of his last 11 starts. As hitting coach Kevin Long said last week, “He’s turned it around. He’s had several good games as of late, and he seems like the Brett Gardner we saw last year. Getting on base, causing havoc, playing great defense.” More specifically, Long noted that Gardner had shifted in the batter’s box: “Basically he moved up closer to the plate. In a nutshell they were pitching him away, and he was coming out of his swing and not able to stay tight and compact on the outside pitch. So he’s moved up on the plate, and that’s helped him a great deal.”
Tellingly, Gardner’s strikeout-to-walk ratio in those two small samples has improved, from 14/4 in the first to 10/10 in the second, and so has his rate of pitches per plate appearance, from 4.13 during his cold spell to 4.46 in his hot one. Overall, he ranks eighth in the league in P/PA at 4.30, down from last year’s league-leading 4.61, though that figure had more than a little something to do with his midseason wrist injury. Interestingly enough, the remade Curtis Granderson currently ranks a surprising second in the AL at 4.48 P/PA.
A downstairs neighbor of ours smokes and we can smell it coming through the radiator vent. It’s noticeable, maybe because we’re so sensitive to cigarette smoke now. Both Em and I used to smoke and when we were growing up it seems as if all the grown-ups we knew smoked. If you are of a certain age, I dare you to find childhood pictures without an ashtray on the living room coffee table. You could smoke in movie theaters, at the game, on the train, and certainly in your own home.
That’s not the case these days and I don’t miss it though it’s still hard to believe that you are getting a bargain if you can cop a pack of smokes for $10.