Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

For the first time in a generation, New York baseball fans have experienced two consecutive non-playoff Octobers, an unnatural state of affairs made even stranger by the expansion in wild-card berths.

But things are looking up as the Yankees and Mets return to action Friday night as strong postseason contenders, not only for fans but for the local and national media executives keeping their fingers crossed that both remain relevant into October.

This sort of thing can be complicated, though.

Consider ESPN, which loaded up on Yankees games for its Sunday night showcase early in the season, using four of its maximum six before the end of May.

This was in part because of favorable matchups, including two with the Red Sox and one with the Mets, but it also in part was an understandable hedge against the Yankees flopping by midseason, as many had predicted.

Not so, as it turns out. Now ESPN has only two Yankees bullets left in its Sunday arsenal, with the schedules for August and September not yet announced. (Not that the Bombers' Sunday opponents in those months offer many ratings-friendly options.)

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The Mets, on the other hand, have appeared only once on a Sunday night, for the game against the Yankees in late April. So they could appear as many as five more times.

That obviously will not happen, but let's just say if you have tickets to the Aug. 2 Nationals-Mets game at Citi Field, prepare to stay up late. ESPN is expected to announce today the game will be moved from afternoon to prime time.

Meanwhile, on Fox, the Yankees have appeared on the network's regionalized coverage three times and have only one more such appearance scheduled -- against the Mets Sept. 19.

The Yankees have appeared on FS1's Game of the Week twice, with three more left.

The Mets have played in Fox's regionalized window once, with only the game against the Yankees left on the schedule (which is subject to change).

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Locally, Mets games on SNY have averaged 2.24 percent of homes, which is up 22 percent compared with this time last year. That figure, as well as the average viewership of 199,578, are the best for SNY since 2012.

And the network's pregame and postgame Mets shows are up 35 percent and 65 percent, respectively, compared with last season.

At YES, the Yankees are averaging 2.55 percent of homes, down 14 percent from this time last year. But after a slow start in April and May the figures have been trending upward.

Four of YES' eight top-rated Yankees games have come in the past month, during which its average rating is up 12 percent over the first 21/2 months.

The Mets' average paid attendance is 29,284, up 2,866 over 2014 at this time, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

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The Yankees are averaging 39,833, which is down 1,731 over last year but still leads the American League.

The Yankees have not finished a season averaging under 40,000 in paid attendance since 2000. If they keep performing as they have been, climbing over that mark should not be a problem.