To put it in pure transit terms, this four-game Subway Series was a smooth, carefree ride on the uptown express for the Yankees. For the Mets, it was one big Amtrak snafu at Penn Station.
A 7-5 triumph at Citi Field on Thursday night, featuring a big home run and five RBIs for resurgent slugger Gary Sanchez and a gem by ace Luis Severino, completed a sweep for the Yankees. It was both a respite and encouraging tuneup between big series against the Red Sox for a club that is aiming for October. By the same token, it just worsened the Mets’ summer of hell.
“I think the most important thing is getting the wins, especially this time of year,” Joe Girardi said, summing up the Yankees’ side of it after having to reluctantly use Dellin Betances in the ninth because Curtis Granderson’s none-out grand slam against Bryan Mitchell turned a laugher into something a bit more tense. Still, the Yankees moved within four games of the Red Sox and extended their regular-season dominance of the Mets to 66-46.
New York-New York games aren’t just wins or losses. Asked if there was something extra at stake, Todd Frazier, the new Yankee from New Jersey, said, “A little bit. We came in with a purpose.” The games seemed to symbolize one team that is going after a pennant and another that has waved a white flag.
“We don’t like losing to these guys,” Michael Conforto said after going 0-for-4 as his team was swept by the Yankees in a season series for the second time (first since 2003). “There’s a sense of rivalry there, so any time when we go to their place and they beat us or they beat us in our own park, that’s frustrating. That’s definitely frustrating. But it’s in the past now. All we can do is move forward, continue to work and try to get better.’’
Players on both sides recognize the special nature of the Subway Series. Steven Matz knows it better than most. He spoke Wednesday about having experienced the excitement of the 2000 World Series as a kid on Long Island. He knows the dynamic of seeing “deGrom” and “Munson” jerseys side-by-side in the stands. He knows the embarrassment fans feel when their team fails.
He set a somber tone for Mets followers on the first play of the game, fielding Brett Gardner’s dribbler and firing the ball way over the head of Dominic Smith for a two-base error.
Three batters later, Sanchez put the Yankees ahead 3-0 as he drove Matz’s changeup into the left-centerfield seats. It burnished Sanchez’s early credentials as a Mets-killer, giving him three homers in the four games.
“I didn’t think it was going out. I hit it right on the barrel, but I was a little off-balance,” he said. “I definitely feel pretty good right now in the box.”
Just after Matz was removed with one out in the fourth, Sanchez hit a two-run single against Chasen Bradford to make it 7-0. That was a cushion for Severino (10-5), who allowed no earned runs in 6 1⁄3 innings.
It was a crusher for Matz (2-7). Despite striking out Aaron Judge twice, extending the latter’s major-league non-pitcher record streak to 34 games with a strikeout, Matz had an awful night.
“It’s not fun, but I’ve just got to keep going,” he said. “I’m not going to cave in. I’m just going to keep working hard.’’
But of the two teams, the Yankees are the ones working toward something bigger this season. “It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the Red Sox or the Mets or anybody in between,” Gardner said. “All the games are important right now.”
The Mets are done with important games this year. These four games hurt for a club that saw its season go off the track long ago.