By Cary Greene
July 28, 2022
The Big Story:
Citi Field was buzzing once again last-night and Mets fans were delirious at the chance to sweep the Yankees, with their ace, Max Scherzer on the mound.
Pete Alonso got the scoring started for the Mets in the bottom of the second with a moon-shot home run to left field and the Mets were off and running with a 1-0 lead.
Max Scherzer meanwhile was his usual dominating self. Yankee hitters hit lots of harmless pop-ups until DJ LeMahieu finally got a solid single off him in the top of the third inning, which brought Aaron Judge to the plate with two-on and two-out (Aaron Hicks had also singled). This was a battle that Scherzer won easily with an array of sliders and change-ups that Judge struggled with as he struck out on 4-pitches, none faster than 85 mph. Not a single pitch in the at-bat was a meaty strike over the heart of the plate.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Mets added another run as Francisco Lindor singled in Tomas Nido and the score was 2-0.
In the top of the fifth-inning the Yankees had another two-out scoring opportunity but with runners on first and third, DJ LeMahieu struck out swinging on a Scherzer fastball.
After Lindor and Alonso drew back-to-back two out walk in the fifth-inning, Domingo German exited the game as Aaron Boone went to his bullpen to create a lefty-on-lefty matchup with the elusive Lucas Leutge, who induced newly-acquired Daniel Vogelbach to ground out to first base.
Through six innings, the Yankees had hit 10 balls over 95 mph off Max Scherzer and had an expected batting average of over .300 but unfortunately for the Yankees, all the hardy-struck baseballs simply didn’t land where defenders weren’t. This amounted to the same problem the Yankees had in the opening game of the Subway Series on Tuesday night. They found themselves 0-7 with runners in scoring position against Scherzer who was doing everything he needed to do - and on his birthday to boot!
The candle on Scherzer’s birthday cupcake was lit with his final strikeout of Aaron Judge in the Yankees half of the sixth inning. Judge was set up by a 97-mph fastball up-and-in, then he waved feebly at the obvious slider that came next as David Cone pointed it all out to the television audience. Scherzer went to the bench screaming and yelling and high-fiving his teammates. He had started his birthday party early.
Unfortunately for Scherzer, Gleyber Torres blew out all the candles as relief pitcher David Peterson stood holding the cake in the eighth inning. After Peterson issued a four-pitch walk to Anthony Rizzo, he was jumped by Gleyber Torres, who promptly blasted an first-pitch opposite-field home run to right field to shut out the lights on the big party in the Mets dugout and tie the score at 2-2.
Perhaps that moment in the game was a signal to the Mets that they need to use the Trade Deadline to acquire a few high-leverage relievers? Certainly the Mets hoped the cake had those fake-candles on it and that they would sparkle back to life in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Aaron Boone didn’t want that to happen though, so he brought in his closer Clay Holmes to pitch the bottom of the eighth. Daniel Vogelbach, who has the lowest swing rate in the majors at 36%, drew a one out walk off Holmes. Mets manager Buck Showalter shined again in this series, choosing to send the speedy pinch-runner Travis Jankowski against the sinkerballer Holmes. The move paid off as Jankowski made it to second base on what would have been a double-play ball hit to Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres.
Now the Mets had their big chance to relight the candles on Scherzer's cake. It was Jeff McNeil against Clay Holmes and McNeil drilled a nasty one-hopper that sent Torres to his knees. He made a wild stab at the ball and somehow made the play with the speedy McNeil flying down the line, allowing Holmes to escape with a scoreless, 21-pitch inning.
In the top of the ninth, the Yankees failed to score. Then, in the bottom of the frame,
Eduardo Escobar hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth inning of Yankees birthday boy Wandy Peralta to set up a wild finish to the game. Mets catcher Thomas Nido dropped a nifty bunt down to move the winning-run 90-feet away. Then Brandon Nimmo tapped back to Peralta who muffed the play and allowed Nimmo to reach first base. This brought Starling Marte to the plate. Marte roped a single to left field and the Mets commenced with a wild celebration - re-lighting the candles on Max Scherzer birthday cake!
● Winning Pitcher: Seth Lugo (6-2, 3.49 ERA) 1.2 IP/ 1 H, 0 ER / 3 K, 0 BB / 24-17 PC-ST (71% Strikes)
● Losing Pitcher: Wandy Peralta (2-3, 2.43ERA) .1 IP/ 3 H, 1 ER / 0 K, 0 BB / 6-5 PC-ST (83% Strikes)
● Yankee Home Runs: Gleyber Torres (16th, 8th-inning off Peterson)
● Yankees batters lead the Majors with 168 HR this season
● The Yankees' 5.34 runs-per-game leads MLB
○ Isiah Kiner now owns a 14 game hitting streak, he’s batting .314 with 4 doubles and 10 RB during the streak!
○ Aaron Hicks is hitting .328 with 13-runs, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, 12 RBI, 14-walks and 2 stolen bases in his last 21 games.
○ The Yankee offense produced just 5 runs in the two-game series against the Mets, going 0-15 with runners in scoring position.
Player of the Game:
Starling Marte came up with the key-hit that made the crowd at Citi Field explode so he was huge last night. Max Scherzer deserves to be the co-player of the game as he was able to contain the Yankee offense.
● Gleyber Torres, who came up with a big hit for the Yankees and also made a sparkling, though unorthodox, defensive play to help the Yankees escape the eighth inning unscathed.
Better to Forget:
● Aaron Judge was resoundingly out-thought by Max Scherzer and with David Cone narrating every pitch, it was clear Judge could benefit from a visit with “Coney” for some in-game advice. Judge was 0-4 with three strikeouts against Scherzer. Later he came up against Seth Lugo in the top of the eighth inning with two outs and LeMahieu on first base and promptly extended his awful night by bouncing out to Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor.
It was great for these tremendous cross-town rivals to square off like this with the whole city watching. The Mets served notice that they are going to be the Big Apple’s team this year and their pitching held the Yankees in check with runners in scoring position during the series. The energy at Citi Field was a lot of fun for both team’s fan bases.
Besides being tons of fun, the series was a prelude to the August 2nd, 6pm MLB Trade Deadline as it served to illustrate both team’s most pressing needs. From the Yankees perspective, high-leverage bullpen pieces need to be added and the team also needs a starting pitcher. The fan base largely wants to position Joey Gallo as a scapegoat but the fact is he barely played in this series and has now become the team’s fifth outfielder.
Last night, the Yankees traded with the Royals for Andrew Benintendi, sending three prospects to the Royals - RHP Chandler Champlain, LHP T.J. Sikkema and RHP Beck Way.
At the start of May, I forecasted that the Yankees would trade for Benintendi and that Cashman was playing into rumors that suggested he was no longer interested due to Benintendi being on the Covid-related Canadian Restricted-List for not being vaccinated. I projected a trade for Benintendi would cost the Yankees Ken Waldichuk and a lower level prospect - but the Royals decided to go for quantity over quality and I think it was a great deal on Cashman’s part as he has plenty of trade chips left to focus on the team’s other needs!
I expect Gallo to be traded imminently to make room for Benintendi, after which Cashman will surely look to trade for more pitching. Pitchers I’ve previously singled out are Arizona’s Joe Mantiply, Chicago’s David Robertson, and Pittsburgh’s David Bednars. Cashman has also been tied to the Reds Luis Castillo.
The Mets on the other hand could also use help in the bullpen and at DH. Look for GM Billy Eppler to be very active at this year’s deadline as contending teams will have one last chance to tweak their rosters for the second half of the season.
The Yankees will host the Kansas City Royals tonight at Yankee Stadium as the Bombers send Jameson Taillon (10-2, 3.93 ERA) to hill to oppose Royals righty Brady Singer (4-3, 3.82 ERA). Game time is set for 7:0 5pm and the game will be broadcast on the YES Network. Game time air temperature will be 86 degrees tonight and skies will be partly cloudy.
Taillon will be making his 20th start of the season tonight and he’ll be pitching on extended five days' rest due to Monday's team off day, having last pitched on Friday at Baltimore, tossing a season-low 2.2 innings and issuing a season high three walks without recording a decision (4 H, 2 ER, 2 K).