Friday, June 8, 2012

Suprise Mets vs. Yankees has meaning in 2012

Who would have guessed it five months ago when the New York Mets were toiling in the midst of the Bernie Madoff mess that come June 8th, the Subway Series would actually mean something.

Five months ago, just the very thought of Mets vs. Yankees was laughable, a true display of the Have's and Have Not's at its worst.

The Mets went through an off-season full of turmoil; from a pending lawsuit by a trustee in the Bernie Madoff case that could have brought Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon to their knees, to not signing their super star short stop, Jose Reyes to a contract, because they didn't have the money made things look worse.

That on top of a team full of minor league prospects, who were not exactly highly touted prospects made this Mets team look like a surefire loser.

Then the miracle happened. The Mets have played with extremely well, thanks in part to the firm guidance of manager Terry Collins, who has kept this team of underachievers afloat and near the top of the National League East all season.

Granted the Mets have been helped by the fact that the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are having down years, but the fact remains this Mets team has been fun to watch.

There is no more talk of trading David Wright, and Johan Santana. Instead there is talk about Wright being an MVP candidate, and talk about Santana's no-hitter last Friday, the first in Mets history.

Lucas Duda has performed. Unlikely heroes like Mike Baxter and Kurt Nieuwenhuis have become household names for their clutch hits in big moments.

R.A. Dickey looks more like Cy Young, posting a sparkling 9-1 record a third of the way through the season.

As a result the Mets find themselves a 32-26, a game and a half behind equally surprising Washington.

Can the Mets keep this up? There are worts on this Mets team. Their bullpen is a nightmare. Jon Rauch has been unreliable, Tim Byrdak has been ok, Manny Acosta was a disaster, and Frank Francisco has somehow recorded 15 saves with an ERA over six!

Yes, there are problems with the Metropolitans. And don't forget about the ineffective Ike Davis who has been hitting under .200 all season, and Jason Bay, who has been ineffective for three years in a Mets uniform.

Sure there are worts, but what team in MLB, this season, doesn't have worts. This season has been a pretty even playing field.

And don't the Yankees know that.

The Yankees, who have been starring up at the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays for most of the season in the standings.

The Yankees got off to a slow start this year, at one point standing a 21-21.

They lost Mariano Rivera for the season, lost David Robertson to the DL. Mark Teixiera and Alex Rodriguez haven't been great. The Yankees as a team this year have only hit .217 with runners in scoring position, one of the worst in the league.

The Yankees rotation has been littered with inconsistent performances from Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova. Forget about Freddy Garcia and his flat 80 mph fastball.

Since that time, the Yankees have gone 10-4. The return of Andy Pettitte has steadied the rotation, and Pettitte has been pitching like its 2009, posting a 2.78 ERA in five starts.

In their last seven games, the Yankees pitching has improved. Hughes, Nova and Kuroda have settled down. Hughes just recently tossed his first complete game ever in a victory over Justin Verlander and the Tigers.

While the Yankee bats continue to struggle, strong performances from Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Raul Ibanez have carried the Yankees thus far this season.

The Yankees, as usual, were expected to roll in the East, but with all of their glaring weaknesses, the question about whether this Yankees team is even good enough to make it to the postseason is a legit question.

Now they square off with the Mets, a team budding with confidence. If the Yankees are to show New York that they are indeed coming out of their first half duldrums, then clobbering the Mets this weekend is a must.

If the Mets want to show New York, that this rambunctious group is for real, then taking two of three in the Bronx is a must.

Who knew back in January that the 2012 Subway Series would mean so much ... once again.

PITCHING MATCH-UPS
Friday, June 8, 2012
Johan Santana vs. Hiroki Kuroda

Saturday, June 9, 2012
Dillon Gee vs. Phil Hughes

Sunday, June 10, 2012
Jon Neise vs. Andy Pettitte

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