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. Terry Collins, sitting at a microphone in front of Mets logos, said before the game, “We’ve got to play better, period. We’re still in the hunt where a good streak gets us right back in it. That’s what we’re looking to do.”
Joe Girardi, at the same table an hour later, in front of a makeshift Yankees backdrop, had a more measured tone when he said, “We’re going to do things to win games here. Our bottom line is, we’re here to compete.”
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 dilemma of where to play all of their outfielders. Collins chose to rest regular rightfielder Curtis Granderson and start Alejandro De Aza in centerfield. “I think tonight was really an important night to kind of put guys in the right spots,” the Mets manager said.
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.
DeGrom (7-5) then got into a groove on the mound. He struggled in each of the first two innings, allowing two baserunners each time and apparently seeming so hittable that Brett Gardner did a two-handed tomahawk slam with his bat when he struck out to end the second. But that turned out to be part of a string of 12 Yankees retired consecutively (seven strikeouts). In all, he gave up only four hits and struck out eight in seven scoreless innings.
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. Michael Conforto and Neil Walker hit run-scoring doubles in the seventh.
It was the sort of burst the Mets hope will become a habit over the next two months. It might also be the type of outcome to which the Yankees might have to get accustomed.