All things being equal, this was another in a long string of struggles for New York. Except things never are quite equal. And they really are different now, with the Mets focused on today and the Yankees aiming for tomorrow, and the Mets saying hello to Jay Bruce and the Yankees possibly saying goodbye to Alex Rodriguez.
Score a big one for today, and for the Mets. They began what they hope will be a push toward the playoffs with a 7-1 rout at Citi Field on Tuesday night. Jacob deGrom threw a gem, and tossed in two singles, a day after the Yankees effectively threw in the towel on their season at the trading deadline.
That deadline frenzy brought Bruce to the New York, where he was toasted with cheers (and some Bruuuuuuuuuuces) before he went 0-for-4. His new club is looking for him to complement Yoenis Cespedes, who evoked a roar when he hit a wicked run-scoring infield single to second in the four-run, six-hit seventh. Returnee Jonathon Niese drew polite applause when he came in to begin the eighth, although not when he allowed a homer to Didi Gregorius in the ninth.
On the Yankees’ side, it was a grim night for Masahiro Tanaka (7-4), who was charged with seven runs in 6 1⁄3 innings. The team will keep trying, but it knows that losses might mount in the short run. Tuesday afternoon, discussion centered on Rodriguez, whose place on the roster might be jeopardized by the youth movement. He provided one last touch of electricity when he popped out to right for the final out.
In this 20th season of interleague play, there is always something that rings of something that happened before. This week, with the Yankees basically giving up on the season during a news conference at Citi Field, there was an echo of 1999, when the Mets announced a massive shake-up to their coaching staff at Yankee Stadium.
All the talk about Rodriguez also called to mind the fact he was the one who hit the soft pop-up that Luis Castillo dropped to decide a game in 2009.
But Tuesday night was something new altogether. The Mets feel more hopeful now that the organization made a commitment to get Bruce.
“I think we had the goal all year long, to win the division,” deGrom said after allowing only four hits and striking out eight in seven scoreless innings. “Adding some guys that can help us is definitely a plus so I think it’s still the same mindset. We just have some more guys to help.”
Cespedes added of Bruce’s addition, “The team has been struggling, hitting with runners in scoring position. Now that he’s here, he’s going to be a big help to the ballclub.”
For the Yankees, the theme has been subtraction of teammates. ““In a way it’s kind of disappointing to see those players go away,” Tanaka said. “But I understand it’s part of the business in the major leagues. It’s sad, but at the same time I understand.”
An oddity was that despite the proverbial white flag, the Yankees were the ones who did not have to worry about playing anyone out of position. The Mets, meanwhile, faced the problem of where to play all of their outfielders. Collins chose to rest regular rightfielder Curtis Granderson and start Alejandro De Aza in centerfield. It paid off in the bottom of the third. After a two-out single by deGrom, De Aza drilled a 3-and-2 pitch to the rightfield seats for a 2-0 lead. “When they put me out there, I do my best to help the team win,” said the scarcely used outfielder.
DeGrom (7-5) then got into a groove on the mound. Travis d’Arnaud, rumored to have been one of the Mets outbound in their win-now push, made the lead 3-0 with a homer to left leading off the fifth, which was a prelude to the seventh, which featured run-scoring doubles by Michael Conforto and Neil Walker.
They all hope it is a prelude to a big finish. D’Arnaud, happy to be staying, said, “I do love the city, I love this organization. I’m ready to get back to the playoffs and finish what we started last year.”
The Yankees, meanwhile, are ready to look a little further ahead. “You can only go forward,” Gregorius said. “Whatever’s happened, those days are already gone.”