ATLANTA — The first time Luis Rojas managed a Subway Series game, the stands were empty and the park quiet, save for the tinny sound of piped-in fan noise. And it raised a question: If a Subway Series game is played, and there are no fans present to cheer and boo and verbally spar in the stands like dysfunctional family members around a dinner table, does it even really count?
Luckily for everyone, this year’s meeting of the Mets and Yankees won’t involve any philosophical quandaries of the sort. Rojas, at least, is looking forward to it.
"The series was exciting last year – facing the Yankees always is," he said. "They’re always a very talented team with how hard they play. But the excitement of fans, it’s immeasurable. It’s definitely going to be even more going to Yankee Stadium and having the fans there. We’re looking forward to it … It should be an exciting weekend."
As often seems like the case when the Mets face the Yankees, there’s a lot on the line. The Yankees are on the precipice of disaster, and owner Hal Steinbrenner even spoke to the media Thursday to address failures in their lineup. The Mets, meanwhile, are shedding pitchers at an alarming rate. They already lost Joey Lucchesi to Tommy John surgery, and David Peterson was forced to leave Wednesday's game with what was termed as sharp right side pain. He’ll almost definitely miss at least his next start, if not more. Though they’re still atop the National League East, this season has exposed inconsistencies in their lineup, which has failed to produce consistently.
The Mets do have two of their top three pitchers, Taijuan Walker and Marcus Stroman, lined up for the first two games of the series. Promising rookie Tylor Megill will pitch the third game. The Yankees have Jordan Montgomery and their ace Gerrit Cole, looking to bounce back from a bad start against Boston, along with a third pitcher to be determined later.
One thing the Mets are looking forward to will be the designated hitter, which they’ll earn since they’re playing at Yankee Stadium. Brandon Nimmo is slated to return from the injured list this weekend and it could be a good opportunity to slot him into the lineup. Michael Conforto’s recent return from the IL also makes him a good candidate, Rojas said. Kevin Pillar has been playing a lot, too, he added.
Frankly, the Mets could use multiple DH slots, as Rojas had a turning carousel of players he wishes he could stash away in the role – in no small part because the Mets are in a stretch of 18 games in 17 days leading into the All-Star break.
"That’s a good opportunity for us, especially with all the games we played in a row, just to get guys off their feet for a portion of the game and maybe focus on hitting," Rojas said. "A guy like [Pete] Alonso can benefit from that if we want to use the DH spot, and a guy like Dom [Smith] can benefit from it."