David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
OK, so we're about ready to wrap up another Subway Series -- likely the last of this home-and-home, three-and-three format, with realignment on the horizon for next season. But in a nod to self-proclaimed Star Wars geek R.A. Dickey, who is sure to get the most hype leading up to Sunday night's finale against CC Sabathia, we've broken down the plot lines in a way the knuckleballer would appreciate. After all, the guy does wear Han Solo shirts and keep a stuffed Yoda doll in his locker.
A New Hope
But the Mets rallied to sweep the next two AL East foes, the Rays and Orioles, with a starting rotation now ranked third in the majors with a 3.49 ERA. Their scoreless streak ended at 29 innings Wednesday night, but the Mets remain the only team to have three separate streaks of at least 20 innings this season.
"We know they have a really good lineup and a really good pitching staff," Scott Hairston said. "So do we."
The Empire Strikes Back
For a while, the Yankees seemed ready to run the table, reeling off 10 straight victories en route to a 14-4 record this month. They have outscored opponents 91-52 and outhomered them 29-14 in June, with a starting rotation that is 12-3 with a 2.51 ERA (125 Ks, 30 walks).
Mark Teixeira is expected to be back in the lineup after not starting Wednesday because of a bruised heel. "Every bit of offense helps," Teixeira said, "especially in what could be a pitchers' series."
Return of the Jedi
Dickey, whose at-bat music is the "Game of Thrones" theme, is more wizard than pitcher these days. His numbers are beyond belief. Dickey has won his last six starts, striking out 63 and allowing only two runs, something no other pitcher has done since 1900. With a streak of 422/3 innings without having allowed an earned run, Dickey has a chance to break Dwight Gooden's franchise record of 49 on Sunday.
"I can say with certainty that I don't try any harder against the Yankees because it's the Yankees," Dickey said. "If I'm able to execute what I want to do, I'll have success."
The Phantom Menace
Only Alex Rodriguez could be vilified for hitting into a double play in a 10-5 loss, even after he had homered earlier in the game, as he did Wednesday. But that's the price of being A-Rod, and with the Yankees still on the hook for another $114 million through 2017, an already bad contract is starting to look worse by the day.
With David Wright having a career year, Rodriguez isn't even the best third baseman in his own city. Wright's 1.027 OPS is third in the majors, behind only Joey Votto (1.145) and Josh Hamilton (1.062). A-Rod, with a .779 OPS, is 75th on that list -- a point above Brandon Phillips and almost 30 below Lucas Duda (.808).
Attack of the Clones
At first glance, Citi Field will look pretty much the same to the visiting Yankees as it did during the previous three seasons. Home Run Apple in centerfield. Bullpens in right. Shea Bridge.
But there are some very important differences. With the walls pulled in closer, those changes should benefit the Yankees, who have hit 47 of their major league-leading 105 homers away from the Bronx for a 1.38 road average that also is tops in the majors.
"They can hit them out of here, too," Terry Collins said, "but it's not quite as easy as it is over there. What we've got to do here is keep the ball on the field."
Revenge of the Sith
Neither team is particularly happy about having to play the other six times in a season. What's great for the fans is viewed by the clubs as more of an unfair scheduling quirk for two teams that want to focus their attention on their division races. But that doesn't mean they don't want to win. The Mets will get some payback by taking two of three.