Mets manager Buck Showalter wondered at his pregame press conference Sunday if anyone noticed how Francisco Lindor stacks up to AL MVP front-runner Aaron Judge — in one category, anyway.
“Do you know that Lindor has more RBIs than Judge?” Showalter wondered. “Do you know that?”
The Yankees and Mets have only seen each other from a distance but are beginning to size each other up. As someone who’s seen both teams up close plenty, I can tell you this: They are baseball’s two best teams.*
(*Actually to know that, all it would take is a quick perusal of the standings.)
The chances for a real Subway Series are rising by the win. So of course, both teams are starting to see what’s going on across the river.
“Sure,” Showalter said. “I’m a fan of baseball. I’m a fan of excellence. They’re doing great. God bless ’em.”
Of course, the Yankees are World Series favorites — at least until they lose another series. They are 32 games over .500 and on a historic pace. The Mets, meantime, are a comparatively measly 20 games over .500 after a 6-2 defeat to the Marlins and Cy Young candidate Sandy Alcantara before a nice Father’s Day crowd at Citi Field.
The Yankees are on another planet now — a record 120-win pace — even after a rare defeat in Toronto on Sunday. However, the Mets have more going for them than you might think.
Sure, it’s early to look at a potential World Series of locals. But as good as things are going around here, hell, why not?
Here’s a six-category matchup of our two powerhouse teams:
The Yankees are hitting home runs at a near-record pace. Aaron Judge remains ahead of Roger Maris’ record rate (the unofficial record we recognize here) as a sometime No. 2 hitter and sometime leadoff hitter. The largest “table-setter” ever leads in a lineup with baseball’s strongest man, Giancarlo Stanton, plus a host of excellent complementary players, many slugging beyond their career norms.
Pete Alonso is killing it in Queens and Francisco Lindor is way past his New York-itis. But they score runs in other ways.
Ah, this is where the Mets shine. They can beat you many ways.
The Mets have two excellent top-of-the-order hitters, Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte, a high-average hitter in Jeff McNeil (yep, those still exist) and extraordinary situational hitting.
Remember how the Mets always used to fall apart with men on base? Well, now it’s the opposite. They are first in MLB in hitting with runners in scoring position, at .289 average.
The Yankees’ rotation ERA of 2.71 ERA leads the American League, and it isn’t close. Gerrit Cole, arguably the best consistently healthy starter in MLB over the past few years, currently sits with the worst ERA of the group, 3.33.
The other four starters are pitching like aces, including former journeyman Nestor Cortes who’s bidding to become the biggest surprise winner of the Cy Young award since, well, ever. His trophy case features two pins for making Miami Herald All-County, first team, so the Cy Young trophy would go nicely between them.
The Mets’ injury-depleted rotation is seeing vast improvement from Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker and generally performing nicely while awaiting the return of two of baseball’s greats.
Mets closer Edwin Diaz has that extraordinarily uplifting song, “Narco” by Blasterjaxx & Timmy Trumpet, with accompaniment by Mr. and Mrs. Met on the horns, not to mention a superb fastball-slider combo. But it’s tough to top someone who has already surpassed the great Mariano Rivera for consecutive scoreless innings.
The heretofore unknown Clay Holmes has been near to unhittable before and after taking over the closer role from the mercurial Aroldis Chapman. Holmes hasn’t allowed a run for 31 ¹/₃ straight innings, which will do wonders for your ERA (his is 0.28 now).
Yankees setup man Michael King has pitched like royalty for most of the season in a setup role for a team that doesn’t need as many relievers as most. Yet, reinforcements may be coming; Zack Britton and Jonathan Loaisiga are out for now, but when they get back the Yankees may have the best bullpen in baseball.
The Mets’ pen is way better than most, but Trevor May and now rookie Colin Holderman are missed, and they still could use another lefty (or two).
Hard to pick against a manager like Aaron Boone, who wins just about every day. But in this case I’ll make an exception, as Showalter brings the gravitas, experience and smarts the Mets needed.
The Yankees have the know-how to get to the promised land (though they haven’t done it or a while). But let’s not forget expected returns from Max Scherzer (the Mets are hoping for next Sunday at Miami) and the incomparable Jacob deGrom as potential co-separator.
So to conclude, the Yankees are having nearly a perfect June and are baseball’s best team, but it may be closer than you think. The teams finished 3-3 here. A Game 7 between them would be sweet to decide it in October.