Mets the Better Team in Latest Subway Series
Ever since interleague play began in 1997, the most anticipated match-up has been the Mets and Yankees. There are some other good rivalries such as the Cubs and White Sox, but New York is the spotlight. What has been one constant is the Yankees are the kings of the hill and the Mets are the wolf trying to get there. That was until this season.
Heading into the Friday night game at Shea Stadium, the Mets had a one and a half game lead on the Atlanta Braves. The Yankees were staring up at the Boston Red Sox with nine games between them. A day earlier, the Mets had a miraculous comeback win at home against the Cubs, scoring five runs in the bottom of the ninth. The Yankees finished up a lackadaisical road trip with a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the White Sox.
The pitching match-up favored the Bronx Bombers, with crafty veteran lefty Andy Pettitte against the inconsistent young southpaw Oliver Perez. Both pitched effectively, but Perez was able to clamp down following a shaky start and hold the Yankees to two runs in seven and two-thirds innings, lowering his ERA from 3.00 to 2.90 in the process. Pettitte only surrendered three runs over seven, but two of them came on an Endy Chavez fifth inning two-run home run to right field. The Mets' reserve outfielder started in left field and also threw out Johnny Damon trying to stretch his lead-off single into a double to begin the contest, which turned out to be a key play in the game.
When Mets' closer Billy Wagner recorded the final out by striking out slugger Jason Giambi, it was the Flushing Faithful who celebrated with a 3-2 win. With the Braves being rained out in Boston, the Mets extended their NL East lead to two games, while the Yankees dropped 10 games behind the division leader for the first time in manager Joe Torre's 12-year tenure in the Bronx. It was the Yankees' sixth loss in their last eight games.
Pettitte summed it up by stating to reporters, "It's going to be a rough night."
Chavez was playing due to the injury to Moises Alou, and having him in the game obviously paid off for the Mets. On his game-winning long ball, Chavez said to reporters, "I was trying to do what he [Mets manager Willie Randolph] wanted - hit the ball to second base to get the runner over. I like his idea and how it worked."
Managers rarely are fans of interleague play, and Randolph is no exception. "It's a distraction with all the hype and extra stuff and it gets you away from the norm," he said to reporters before the game. But Randolph added, "It's exciting. A full house. Yankees and Mets fans going back and forth. It's a playoff atmosphere."
David Wright showed a natural honesty and excitement when he commented to reporters, "In some cases, there is too much emphasis put on the importance of these three games against a team that's not even in your league. But I'd be lying if I said it was just another series. It's fun. I love it when the fans get into it."
There still is a long way to go in the season and the interleague series, as well. Two more games at Shea will take place this weekend and the teams will lock up again next month with three more at Yankee Stadium.
More importantly, both teams will face their divisional rivals following this series. The Mets go to Atlanta for a three-game set, and the Yankees will host the Red Sox with three in the Bronx. Those games hold more importance and implications than these three, but there's something about the Subway Series that is special.
Kind of makes one nostalgic for the Mayor's Trophy annual exhibition game from years ago. Except these count in the standings.