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Steve Phillips breaks down the Subway Series

Throw out the notion of bragging rights when the Yankees and Mets meet at Citi Field starting Friday night in a three-game interleague series.

"This is about playoffs for the Yankees," said Steve Phillips, the Mets general manager when the teams met in the 2000 World Series, "and the Mets want to get home-field advantage [in the NLDS] so, yeah, there are bigger fish to fry than bragging rights right now."

The NL East-leading Mets, who have lost their last two games, entered Thursday with a suddenly not so cozy 7 1/2-game lead over the Nationals, while the Yankees were three games behind the AL East-leading Blue Jays.

"I would definitely give the edge to the Mets," Phillips said, "and yet the Yankees are desperate for wins to keep pace with the Blue Jays." And with no designated hitter in the National League ballpark, it appears Alex Rodriguez, who leads the Yankees with 32 home runs and 83 RBIs, will be reduced to pinch hitting.

Phillips, host of an MLB Network show on satellite radio, assisted in a breakdown of this weekend's lineups.

CATCHER: Travis d'Arnaud vs. Brian McCann

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

"McCann has been an offensive force for the Yankees and he's handled more pitchers than any other catcher in the major leagues this year," Phillips said. "D'Arnaud has had quality at-bats with runners in scoring position as well as doing an excellent job handling a quality pitching staff."

Edge: Yankees

FIRST BASE: Greg Bird vs. Lucas Duda

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

"I've been impressed by Bird's approach, but I do think Duda is a presence in the lineup that the opposing manager needs to anticipate," Phillips said. "While both guys have scuffled [in batting average], I think the presence of Duda still impacts the opposing manager."

Edge: Mets

SECOND BASE: Daniel Murphy vs. Stephen Drew

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Greg Fiume

"Murphy is barely adequate defensively," Phillips said, "but you're talking about a guy [Murphy] that bats second and one that bats ninth. Drew has hit for some surprising power this year, but it's been too infrequent." Brendan Ryan could start against lefty Steven Matz.

Edge: Mets

SHORTSTOP: Wilmer Flores vs. Didi Gregorius

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mike Zarrilli

"Didi Gregorius is one of the most improved players from the first month of the season to the final month of the season," Phillips said. "I think his growth as a player has been exponential and I think it all stems from him having gained confidence. I love Wilmer Flores, but Gregorius is the better player."

Edge: Yankees

THIRD BASE: David Wright vs. Chase Headley

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

"Headley's had defensive struggles this year," Phillips said of the third baseman's 21 errors. "I think the knack for David Wright to come up with a big hit and be the spiritual leader of the Mets gives him the advantage in a game-critical situation. I would much rather have David Wright going to the plate than Headley and I think that separates the two."

Edge: Mets

LEFTFIELD: Brett Gardner vs. Michael Conforto

Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

"Brett Gardner can play for my team any day of the week and I like Conforto a lot," Phillips said. "For a young guy he has power, he has discipline at the plate. I think he has the ability to hit from line to line. He's going to be a really good player but there's a part of Gardner that's trying to put the team on his back and carry them." Against CC Sabathia, Conforto will sit with Yoenis Cespedes or Michael Cuddyer playing in left.

Edge: Yankees

CENTERFIELD: Jacoby Ellsbury vs. Yoenis Cespedes

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mitchell Layton

"Cespedes right now is playing like the best player in baseball," Phillips said. "Ellsbury can't seem to catch up to the high fastball. It seems like he's in between pitches." Against Sabathia, Cespedes could be in left with Juan Lagares in center.

Edge: Mets

RRIGHTFIELD: Carlos Beltran vs. Curtis Granderson

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

"Granderson has made great adjustments at the plate," Phillips said. "His ability to get on base and work the count has been phenomenal. But Beltran is scary in any big series for me. In a game-critical situation I fully expect he's going to come up with a big hit." But Beltran did have that strikeout to end the 2006 NLCS. "If he strikes out taking a curveball, then maybe it's just the stadium or the borough," Phillips said. Chris Young might play an outfield spot against Matz.

Edge: Even

STARTING PITCHING

Friday: Masahiro Tanaka (12-6, 3.40 ERA) vs. Steven
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Friday: Masahiro Tanaka (12-6, 3.40 ERA) vs. Steven Matz (3-0, 1.88)

Saturday: Michael Pineda (10-8, 4.25) vs. Noah Syndergaard (8-6, 3.20)

Sunday: CC Sabathia (4-9, 4.93) vs. Matt Harvey (12-7, 2.88)

"After Tanaka it is no match," Phillips said of the Mets' advantage in starting pitching. "Right now Pineda, every time he makes a mistake, it's over the plate and up in the zone, they're hitting it out of the ballpark. CC struggled against righthanders [hitters]. You're going to have to face David Wright, and Cespedes and [Juan] Uribe."

Edge: Mets

BULLPEN

It largely boils down to Dellin Betances and
Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

It largely boils down to Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller vs. Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia. "I give the edge to Betances and Miller," Phillips said, "and that's not in any way missing how good Familia and Clippard are." There's a rickety bridge for both bullpens before the eighth inning, though Justin Wilson has been satisfactory and Hansel Robles and Addison Reed have had their moments.

Edge: Yankees

BENCH

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

"This is easy," Phillips said. "The Mets have a better bench. Because they're working platoons in multiple positions, keeping everybody sharp and everybody hungry and it gives them answers for everything that they need." He spoke of Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Ruben Tejada, Cuddyer, Lagares, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Kevin Plawecki. The Yankees basically have Young, Ryan, John Ryan Murphy and Dustin Ackley.

Edge: Mets

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