Aaron Boone never got to play in a Subway Series game.
By the time he was dealt to the Bronx in 2003, the Yankees already had completed that year’s series against the Mets.
So it is not a stretch to say he’s more than a little enthused about his initial foray into the rivalry as a manager.
“You understand that it matters,” Boone said. “Any time you play in games where it matters to people on a greater level, I think that adds to the excitement of the games, I think it adds to the excitement of the season . . . I know the city will be excited about it, I know the fan bases, obviously, will be excited about it, so I’m very much looking forward to it.”
At least one fan base will. The Yankees are cruising and have been since late April, bringing a 40-18 record into Friday’s series opener at Citi Field. They’re 31-9 since a 9-9 start.
The 27-32 Mets seem to be, well, going in a different direction. They bring a six-game losing streak into Friday, scoring a total of seven runs in that span.
Masahiro Tanaka will start the opener for the Yankees, opposed by Jacob deGrom. Domingo German goes against Steven Matz on Saturday night and Sunday night features Luis Severino facing Noah Syndergaard, assuming the Mets clear him to start after a stint on the disabled list because of a finger injury.
Tanaka has had his moments in the Subway Series, most memorably the first time he faced the Mets on May 14, 2014, when he threw a shutout in a 4-0 victory at Citi Field. The righthander also collected his only big-league hit, squirting a ground single to right in the ninth inning against Jose Valverde.
“It’s a special game for the city and I look at it as a special game, too,” Tanaka said through his translator. “Overall I think it’s [the atmosphere] louder. You feel and you hear it while you’re walking toward the bullpen. I think overall it’s just a little bit louder than the other games.”
Brett Gardner has played in the most Subway Series games of anyone on the roster (39) and the veteran outfielder said the games — and the unique atmosphere surrounding them — are always something he’s enjoyed as they serve to break up the at-times monotonous nature of the season.
“For us as players I think it’s such a long season and everything kind of runs together,” Gardner said. “Every game obviously is just as important as the other so it’s always something that we kind of look forward to, and more so than us, the fans just get a big kick out of it. It’s always a lot of fun for us to play in that kind of atmosphere.”
Neil Walker has experienced the series from the other side. He played against the Yankees with the Mets in 2016 but was traded to the Brewers just before the 2017 Subway Series.
“You always knew it was going to be an exciting series regardless of how either team was doing,” Walker said. “You know when you’re having the Subway Series, you know when those games are coming up and you know they’re going to be a little more exciting than most of the games.”
While Gardner has the most experience with the Subway Series in terms of games, no one has lived it as long as Dellin Betances. The reliever was born and raised in the city, himself a Yankees fan but surrounded by fans of the other team.
“I went to school in Brooklyn and there’s a lot of Mets fans in Brooklyn,” Betances said with a smile. “You always look at your calendar and see when you’re either going to Citi Field or they’re coming to you. Obviously, growing up a fan I know the importance of the Subway Series. And how much bragging rights there are when the team you’re rooting for beats the other one. For me it’s means a lot.”