This Year’s Subway Series Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

(Photo credit: Sporting News)

For the first time in a long time going back to 2006, the Subway Series finally has some buzz to it.

The Yankees and Mets will face each other for a two-game series Tuesday night at Citi Field and again in late August at Yankee Stadium. Both teams harbor championship aspirations. Both teams are evenly matched. Both teams played well all season to make this once popular Subway Series worth watching this year.

This is as good of a litmus test as it gets for the Big Apple’s baseball teams. Both will get to see how good they are and how much work they have to do before October.

You can bet both fanbases will be fired up. This is a chance for Mets fans to be proud of their team even more if their team beat the Yankees. It would continue to validate the season the Mets are having at 59-37.

As for Yankees fans, well this gives them a chance to act stupid by trash-talking Mets fans if their team dominates the series.

We all know how great the Yankees are when they don’t play the Houston Astros, who swept them in a doubleheader last week to start the post-All-Star break. Even though they haven’t won a championship since 2009, they still bring that aura with them when they go to visiting ballparks. They bring out the best in everyone. There’s no doubt they will bring out the best in the Mets this week. We all know how much Mets manager Buck Showalter wants to beat the Yankees, who he once managed to start his long managerial career.

The Mets are carving a niche of their own. When the season started, they had visions of winning a championship after hiring Showalter as their manager and signing Max Scherzer, Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha and Starling Marte as free agents along with acquiring Chris Bassitt from the Oakland Athletics. They backed up their goal by having their starters pitch to a 2.42 ERA in July and their hitters being clutch when it matters. They find ways to win games through pitching and situational hitting.

The Amazins stepped up in big series this season by winning their fair share of games against the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants. Here’s a reason they are leading the NL East: They are 28-12 in divisional play.

You can bet the Mets won’t be in awe of the Yankees. Their manager will see to it. They relish the thought of playing their fellow city team since it gives them an opportunity to show the national audience that they are a team to think about in October. Remember Tuesday night’s game is on TBS and Wednesday’s night game is exclusively on ESPN, so the country will get to see why the Mets are the NL East division leaders. Of course, Tuesday’s game will also be on the local regional network with the Mets being on SNY and the Yankees being on the YES Network.

There will be star power in Pete Alonso and Aaron Judge. In fact, it will be interesting to see which one steps up in a series of this magnitude. This isn’t just a regular season series on a 162-game schedule. Moments like this get magnified in a team’s season. If Alonso or Judge dominates, people in town will talk about what that slugger did for days.

It will be interesting to see how Taijuan Walker does against the Yankees. He has been the Mets most valuable starter in the pre-All-Star break. By going 7-2 with a 2.55 ERA and 1.09 WHIP., he filled the void after Jacob deGrom spent most of the season on the injured list and Scherzer spent a portion of his season on the injured list. With that lineup, it will be a challenge for him. He will be up for it. He always gets up for matchups like this. He feels he can do well against that lineup, and why wouldn’t he be confident with him striking out 73 hitters in 91 2/3 innings this season. A great performance by him would go a long way from Mets fans forgetting his second-half swoon last season.

The same can be said for Jordan Montgomery, who likely starts in this series. Can he raise his game to another level in the post-All-Star break? With questions surrounding Jameson Taillon and Nestor Cortes going past the innings they pitched last season, the Yankees not only need to get a starter like Luis Castillo that can be a difference maker, but they need Montgomery to pitch like one in the next few months.

Even though the Mets have not officially announced Scherzer would start Wednesday, you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to know he is starting. There’s no way Showalter is starting David Peterson in a series of this magnitude. Gamesmanship or not, he is not fooling the Yankees here. The manager is going to want a two-game sweep or at least a win, so Scherzer is his best bet to get it done. I for one can’t wait to see how Scherzer does in his first Subway Series matchup of his career.

The Yankees and Mets played as well as they could have in the pre-All-Star break, but everything is different now in the post-All-Star break. The games go faster. Pressure ratchets up. The grind of a season and long days of summer can wear on them. Pitchers start to slow down. As good as both teams are, the second half can tell so many things about how they are going to do in October.

As good as the Mets are, there is a portion of this fanbase that has this self-fulfilled prophecy that their team will collapse as they did in 2007. The fans talk about the Mets being a great first-half team just to fall apart in the second half year in and year out. Even though this is a different team with a competent manager and different cast of characters, doubts will creep in until the Mets finally clinch a playoff berth in the fall. That’s just the way it is.

Yankees fans still feel their team can win it all. I have my doubts. I find them to be overrated, and the Astros proved that when they played them this season. It will be interesting if the starters can keep this up.

It all starts with Round 1 of the Subway Series. Everyone will be watching.

This is as good as it gets around here.

It’s about time.

This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6

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