10:15 am Jun. 11, 2012
This weekend's edition of the Subway Series began with the Mets and Yankees sporting virtually identical records: the Yankees at 30-25, the Mets at 32-26.
But as the Yankees' sweep of the three-game series showed, that doesn't mean the teams are equal.
The Mets didn't give a particularly poor account of themselves. Sure, Johan Santana had a poor outing on Friday, but they received strong starting pitching from Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee, and their starter E.R.A. for the weekend was still a respectable 4.26. The Yankees, meanwhile, received stellar starting pitching all weekend, and they didn't even use their ace, CC Sabathia.
The Mets managed to lose a pair of winnable games on Saturday and Sunday because while their starting pitching has been strength enough to keep them at rough parity with the Yankees, their bullpen and defense simply aren't good enough to measure up to the Yankees, or most other major-league teams.
On Saturday, while the Yankee relievers shut down a lineup that included Ike Davis (batting average .162), Jason Bay (.211) and Andres Torres (.209), the Yankees came back from a 2-1 deficit on a pair of home runs, first by Mark Teixeira, then by Curtis Granderson. In the ninth, Rafael Soriano had command issues, but the Mets presented little threat to him, with Davis, Bay and Jordany Valdespin (.133).
On Sunday, the league's worst defense betrayed the Mets. Ahead 3-0, David Wright made an error, and Russell Martin followed with a home run to make it 3-2. An inning later, Omar Quintanilla failed to handle a ground ball by Derek Jeter. Granderson followed with a legitimate hit, but both the game-tying RBI from Teixeira and the go-ahead RBI from Alex Rodriguez came on hits that better defenses would have converted into outs.
Still, the Mets drew even, getting to Soriano to tie the game. And then baseball's worst bullpen, represented Sunday by Jon Rauch, gave up a game-winning home run to Russell Martin to end it.
The essential separators of the two teams this weekend aren't any fluke. The Yankees are legitimately good at hitting home runs, with elite starting pitching and a solid bullpen; the Mets have good starting pitching, but a suspect offense, leaky bullpen and putrid defense.
Those things aren't likely to change, nor are they likely to stop impacting both teams in the win column. If anything, the Yankees' difficulties with runners in scoring position and the Mets' propensity for two-out hits with runners on base have only masked the differences between the two teams.
When they meet again 11 days from now at Citi Field, there shouldn't be any further questions about who the underdog is.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
David Diehl was arrested for DWI in Astoria late Sunday night, after watching Croatia beat Ireland in the Euro.
SUNY Stony Brook advanced to the College World Series, beating L.S.U.
Spain and Italy played to a 1-1 draw, and Croatia beat Ireland 3-1.