Subway Series 2018 Diary: Citi Field

Masahiro Tanaka

Here is my annual “I Enjoy the Subway Series” proclamation. I do enjoy it. Over the course of 162 games with 19 of those games against the lowly Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays, it’s important to have some “meaningful” series. Not that the series against the Mets counts more than any other series, the way some baseball fans want you to believe that games in September count more than those in April. But it’s meaningful in the way that it breaks up the daily grind against the usual teams, especially in a season in which five teams are currently on pace to lose at least 100 games.

The Subway Series is fun. Maybe it doesn’t have the same appeal that it did when it started in 1997, but it’s still fun. Anyone who thinks otherwise should skip it and wait for the next time the Yankees play one of their opponents they already play 19 times.

The first half of this season’s Subway Series went well with a series win. But the Yankees were very close to losing all three games against a Mets team that looks like it might just go through the motions for the rest of the season. Two out of three is two out of three, but it was a little worrisome of how the Yankees won those two out of three with the offense disappearing for most of the weekend.

Jacob deGrom as a Yankee is one of the only trades worth making to give up top prospects or Major League-ready players to bolster the rotation. Outside of Madison Bumgarner, who most likely won’t be available, deGrom is the next-best starting pitcher, who most likely won’t be available and most likely will never be available to the Yankees for as long as he is a Met.

deGrom showed why he is the Mets ace (8 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1 HR), not the always-injured Noah Syndergaard, and why he could be the difference-maker in the AL playoffs. I don’t think the Yankees need a difference-maker to win the AL East, I think they can easily win it with the team they have now. But winning the AL East isn’t the goal, and as it stands right now, the Astros have Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. in some order waiting in an ALCS rematch. The Yankees as of today have Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray and Domingo German. I don’t think an ALCS rematch would go seven games again with the disparity in those rotations.

deGrom shut the Yankees down for the first 7 2/3 innings, allowing an unearned run on an error by Adrian Gonzalez (I wonder if he took the blame for it or blamed God like he did for the Red Sox’ September 2011 collapse). But with two outs and no one on in the seventh, a Gleyber Torres single followed by a Brett Gardner two-run home run gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead en route to their eventual 4-1 win.

deGrom has made 13 starts this season. He has won four of them. He took the loss on Friday against the Yankees despite going eight innings and allowing two earned runs. He has four no-decision in starts in which he pitched seven innings and allowed one run or less. And he has another no-decision from a start in which he went 7 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs with 12 strikeouts. He is 4-1 this season with a 1.57 ERA in 13 starts. I would feel bad for him if he wasn’t on the Mets.

He might not be on the Mets by July 31. The best thing the Mets could do is to trade both deGrom and Syndergaard and restock their team and minor-league system. The Mets 2015-16 window is closed, and while the Nationals’ window is also closing soon, the Braves and Phillies aren’t going anywhere for a while. The next time the Mets are ready to contend (if they ever are), deGrom and Syndergaard will be long past free agency and likely old men. Unfortunately, the Mets would rather not see the Yankees win or see their homegrown ace win with the Yankees than ever win themselves, so a trade is near impossible.

Masahiro Tanaka opposed deGrom, and aside from the leadoff home run to Brandon Nimmo to start his night, he was solid (5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HR). Tanaka would have stayed in the game for the bottom half of the six if he didn’t get scoring from third like Chien-Ming Wang, injuring both hamstrings in the process and landing on the disabled list for at least a month. I’m very against pitchers still batting in Major League Baseball because of how ridiculous it is to ask a person, who likely hasn’t hit since their childhood, to try to do something that everyday hitters have a hard time doing. I’m not against it because pitchers get hurt running the bases, or just Yankees pitchers get hurt running the bases. It’s kind of embarrassing for a professional athlete, pitcher or not, to strain both hamstrings running the bases. Actually, it’s embarrssing for any person, not only a professional athlete. And not only that, but Tanaka also twisted his ankle stepping on home. Has he ever run before?

Gardner’s go-ahead home run was just another example of Gardner’s big-moment prowess. (Giancarlo Stanton’s insurance home run was just another example of his tack-on prowess.) Gardner has always been the streakiest hitter I ever seen, and this year has been no different:

March 29-April 16: .276/.391/.379

April 17-May 3: .100/.230/.100

May 4-June 10: .333/.408/.552

When Gardner is hot, he’s unstoppable, and when he’s cold, it looks like he should bat ninth or that the game has passed him by. In the eight inning against deGrom, he once again showed by he can always be trusted with the game on the line.

Domingo German’s rotation spot was in jeopardy after he laid back-to-back eggs against the A’s and Rangers. But respectable starts against the Astros and Tigers kept him in the rotation, and now with Tanaka landing on the disabled list, he has a rotation spot for the foreseeable future.

The problem with German has been one inning in nearly every start (aside from his first start when he no-hit in the Indians for six innings). Against the A’s, he gave up five runs in the fifth inning and one run in his other four innings. Against the Rangers, he was just bad. Against the Astros, he gave up three runs (two earned) in the second and one run in his other 4 2/3 innings. Against the Tigers, he gave up two runs in the fourth and two runs in his other 5 2/3 innings. On Saturday, it was the first inning when he gave up three runs on two home runs.

After the three-run first, German settled down, like he usually does after a bad inning, pitching five shutout innings. The untouchable Gleyber Torres hit a solo home run off Steven Matz in the third to make it 3-1, and the he-better-not-get-traded Miguel Andujar continued his battle for AL Rookie of the Year with his teammate (now that Shohei Otani is likely done for the season) with a two-run home run in the sixth to tie the game. Aaron Judge broke the tie in the eighth when he hit former Yankee Anthony Swarzak’s first pitch for a solo home run. Like many former Yankees relievers, Swarzak owes his former team a few games, and the first of those was on Saturday night.

It was understandable that the Yankees had to grind their way to a win against Jacob deGrom. It was somewhat understandable that they had to do the same in a game started by Matz. But with Luis Severino on the mound, going against Seth Lugo with an off day on Monday, it was completely unacceptable to lose the series finale.

Severino wasn’t at his best (5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 7 K, 1 HR) on Sunday night, but giving up two runs over five innings with the offense facing Lugo should have been enough for the Yankees to overcome. Instead, they managed just two hits (their only two baserunners) against Lugo in six innings, one hit against Robert Gsellman in two innings and one walk against Swarzak in the ninth. It was a very uninspiring performance from a team that had nowhere to travel other than their own homes after the game with an off day on Monday and a homestand on Tuesday awaiting them.

It would nice if Aaron Boone would pencil in the best possible lineup for one game. But if he’s not going to move Torres out of the 9-hole, can we at least get the best nine hitters in the lineup for two consecutive games? Judge was given the night off on Sunday against Lugo, only to be used a pinch hitter in the eighth. Judge didn’t play baseball on Tuesday. He didn’t play baseball on Thursday. The team has a day off today, and yet, he didn’t play baseball on Sunday until he was used as a pinch hitter. I understand the need to give guys rest, but Boone is taking it to another level. Maybe get a comfortable lead in the division before you start giving guys regular rest.

Even with the loss on Sunday, the Yankees won the series and took the first half of the Subway Series, and because of it, once again, I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankees fan.