Masahiro Tanaka, one of the Yankees' best starting pitchers, goes on the disabled list now because he couldn't make it from third to home as a baserunner without hurting his hamstrings. Even without Tanaka for 10 days, the Yankees are the best team in baseball, one capable of winning 110
Masahiro Tanaka, one of the Yankees' best starting pitchers, goes on the disabled list now because he couldn't make it from third to home as a baserunner without hurting his hamstrings. Even without Tanaka for 10 days, the Yankees are the best team in baseball, one capable of winning 110 games this season, or more. You want to know how good they are? They have the record they have without Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton getting really hot yet, and with Gary Sanchez currently riding a train on the Mendoza Line. That's how good the Yankees are.
"They batted a guy [Gleyber Torres] ninth against us last night who's got an OPS over nine [hundred] and ten home runs and a .300 batting average," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said on Saturday afternoon. "Really?"
There was a point in the season when Callaway's team was winning the way the Yankees have been winning since the middle of April. The Mets started out 11-1. When they got ahead in games, they stayed ahead. When they got behind, they believed they would come back and find a way to win, at home and on the road. Now, they can't hit anybody and can't win anywhere.
They call these Subway Series games between the Mets and Yankees, and always have. But at this particular subway stop in New York City, the Yankees are everything that the Mets are not. They really are the best team, at a time when the Mets have looked like the worst for the better part of a month.
There is trouble from the top of the Yankee batting order -- Brett Gardner got two hits off Jacob deGrom on Friday night, and then hit the eighth-inning home run off him that settled things at Citi Field -- all the way to the kids at the bottom, Torres and Miguel Andujar. Both of those rookies homered on Saturday, before Judge's big fly put the Yanks over the top.
Judge has 18 homers, Stanton has 15, and somehow you get the sense that both of them are just clearing their throats. Still, the Yankees have a .700 winning percentage. And will get better at the Trade Deadline because, well, because they always do when they have a chance to win it all.
When the Mets were 11-1, the Yankees were 6-6. Look at what has happened in baseball in New York since. The Yankees are shocked when they lose, when they don't get the kind of late swing they got from Gardner when they needed one. Lately, the Mets are shocked when they score more than a run in a game. But it really was different in early April, when the Mets were the ones believing that only good things were going to happen, every day.
"You know what's funny?" Callaway said in his office, more than four hours before Saturday night's game. "I had that feeling last night, even the way things have been going for us. I did feel the same way I did in early April. I was sure something great was going to happen late. I figured Jake [deGrom] was going to pitch into the ninth, and even if the game was still tied, that one of our guys would find a way to pop a home run and we'd win. But then they were the ones who did that in the eighth. Gardner was the one who popped the home run."
Callaway was the pitching coach for the Indians last October when the Yankees came back from 0-2 down in the Division Series, and went on to become the ones who ended up playing the Astros in the American League Championship Series. The Yankees didn't have Stanton then. They didn't have Torres and Andujar tearing things up at the bottom of the order. But even with the Indians pitchers turning Judge into a non-factor in that series, the Yankees slowly ground their way through the Cleveland pitching staff and came all the way back and beat them in five. Now, they've got even more stick this year than last year.
"You look at their lineup," Callaway said, "And you realize that you have to get them all out differently. It's not that way with our guys. [Brandon] Nimmo's approach is similar to [Michael] Conforto's, who's similar to Jay Bruce. We've got a lot of the same type of hitter. They don't. If somebody is pitching well against us, he doesn't have to radically alter his approach, batter to batter. With the Yankees, you do."
The Yankees didn't crush deGrom on Friday night, because nobody in baseball can do that to deGrom. But Gardner got him in the eighth, and got him out of the game. Judge got Tanaka home -- barely -- with a sacrifice fly to tie the game 1-1. Stanton hit one out against Paul Sewald in the ninth. The Yankees won again. The Mets lost again. The Yankees didn't hit a ton on this night. Just enough. They do that a lot.
The Mets had a couple of weeks like that. The Yankees are having a season like that. They really are that good. And going to get better. The subway train is them.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com. He also writes for the New York Daily News.