Sandy Alderson, for whatever reasons you choose to believe, didn’t help the Yankees enhance their playoff chances as a handful of talked-about trades collapsed during the past two weeks.
Lucas Duda. Jay Bruce. Neil Walker. Each one a potential upgrade for the Yankees. Each one shipped somewhere other than the Bronx.
Amid that Cold War climate, Alderson’s Mets traveled across the RFK Bridge for Monday night’s Subway Series opener and the opportunity to sabotage the Yankees’ postseason hopes. But what they found was the harsh smack of reality, delivered by the thumping bats of Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez in the Mets’ 4-2 loss.
Maybe the Yankees could have used Duda, Bruce or Walker. It’s possible that Curtis Granderson, who homered Monday night against his former team, could help them chase down the Red Sox. But Brian Cashman’s crew shouldn’t need any help to take apart these stripped-down Mets, who will be overmatched in nearly every category during these four days, as the Yankees rudely showed them in the late innings Monday night.
That’s where the serious damage is going to occur in this series, and why the Mets hope Jacob deGrom has another of those eight-inning gems left in his holster for Tuesday night.
Rafael Montero stuck around for a solid six innings, giving up a sacrifice fly and Judge’s tying blast. But when this one transitioned into a bullpen battle, it was only a matter of time.
“You’re not satisfied with a 2-0 lead in Yankee Stadium,” Terry Collins said.
Think of what Collins had at his disposal compared with Joe Girardi, even with the Yankees’ manager intending to rest Aroldis Chapman. With the score tied at 2, Collins lined up Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins and Eric Goeddel to go against Chad Green, David Robertson and Dellin Betances. Then Collins got what the Mets had coming.
Hicks opened the eighth with a home run off Robles that looked as if it were late trying to catch the No. 4 train. Sanchez hammered another solo shot, this one off Goeddel. As anemic as the Yankees’ offense has appeared to be recently, they still possess too much firepower for the Mets’ bullpen to contain.
There’s also a sense of urgency that the Yankees can’t ignore no matter how much Girardi tries to downplay any hint of panic. After Alderson’s sell-off thinned his lineup and bullpen, the odds of the Mets inflicting real harm are slim. So what occurred Monday night was what we expected: the Yankees beating a team they have to — and should.
“We need to win games,” Girardi said. “To come from behind was important, and with the Red Sox loss, we’re right back where we were when we started.”
That’s 4 1⁄2 games behind the AL East leader, the team occupying most of the Yankees’ attention this week, with the Mets providing what might end up being no more than a speed bump at the other side of the bridge.
Despite the usual Subway Series hype, nobody would confuse Monday night’s pitching matchup for anything resembling a Game 1 showdown in October. The Yankees were forced to call up Luis Cessa because they had to put Masahiro Tanaka on the 10-day disabled list Saturday with shoulder inflammation. The Mets still employ Montero in the rotation because of their annual shortage of functioning bodies (fortunately for him).
Having to go with Cessa was not ideal for a Yankees team reeling from Sunday night’s loss to the Red Sox, and seeing old friend Granderson land the first punch in the third inning with a high-arcing homer that landed in the rightfield second deck had to be especially painful.
As perfect as it would be for Granderson’s lefty power stroke to return to the Bronx for the stretch run, we can’t envision Alderson and Cashman agreeing on a deal.
For this Subway Series, though, it won’t matter.