From a fan’s perspective, the Subway Series is always impactful. The games draw sold-out crowds. They come complete with bragging rights regardless of where the Mets and Yankees are in the standings.
That energy and enthusiasm tend to rub off on players, too, even in years when the games themselves don’t carry much weight. And this is not one of those years. The second installment of the 2023 Subway Series holds additional import for both the Mets and Yankees, who are clinging to longshot bids to make the postseason.
“They’re a good team trying to do the same thing we are,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “I know our fans and their fans enjoy it. So we’ll treat it as such.”
At this point, the Mets have no choice. Anything less than a two-game sweep will do little to convince team brass not to sell off pieces at the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline, given the club’s fourth-place standing and inconsistent play. Winning one of two could perhaps stall the inevitable. Losing both would probably end any thought of the Mets even standing pat at the Deadline, let alone buying.
Sound dramatic? This is the reality facing this club, whose season hinges upon the next week. The Yankees happen to be the team standing in their way.
“I try not to place too much on one thing, but I understand the sense of urgency,” Showalter said. “So do the players.”
The Mets at least have the right pitcher on the mound to open things in the Bronx. Justin Verlander has improved dramatically since the start of the season, producing a 1.74 ERA over his past five starts. He’s handled the Yankees well throughout his career, most notably in sharp performances in the 2017 and '22 postseasons, and more recently in a quality start earlier this year. On paper, Verlander is the favorite in a Tuesday matchup with Domingo Germán.
The following night, José Quintana will make his second start after pitching well in his season debut following a four-month absence recovering from rib surgery. He matches up with Carlos Rodón, an oft-injured lefty who has yet to win a game in limited action since joining the Yankees.
It wouldn’t be outlandish for the Mets to win both games, giving them a last-ditch chance to alter their reality. General manager Billy Eppler and owner Steve Cohen will be watching with one eye on the Deadline.
But the Mets have faced this sort of situation before. Just before the All-Star break, they ripped off six wins in a row only to lose their next four games. They followed that up with three consecutive victories, only to drop three of their next four.
They can’t afford a similar stumble at Yankee Stadium. If that happens, the Mets can probably bid farewell to the idea of the Trade Deadline pushing them toward a late playoff run.
“It’s the Subway Series, right? It’s a big one,” outfielder Mark Canha said. “It’s a big one for New York, and we want to win. You always want to win that series. You always feel like the next series can be the one where you turn it around.”