How Sweep It Is
The Mets swept the Yankees for the first time that the sixteen year-series has been played, and it was only the fourth time they won the season series. Contained within those four games was the first blown save in 2013 for the great Mariano Rivera (the first time he failed to record an out in his storied career), a 9-4 blowout much needed by a struggling offense, and four starters who pitched into the sixth inning or deeper.
The key to the Mets success was that starting rotation, which had only one dependable starter, the phenom Matt Harvey. Harvey, Jonathon Niese, Jeremy Hefner, and Dillon Gee all had career starts, only walking one batter between the four of them.
Not to be forgotten should be the timely hitting and lucky rolls which have eluded this club for the first two months of the 2013 campaign. David Wright's game-tying single against Rivera which almost hit Daniel Murphy off second base and John Buck's infield single which stayed fair up the third base line to drive in an insurance run the final game.
Unlike previous incarnations of the series, this was much more even in terms of big-name talent. Since interleague play began in 1997, the Yankees have fielded their core four: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte and a host of big name free agents: Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Bernie Williams and Mark Teixeira to name a few. The Mets, on the other hand, have had a changing cast of characters since that time. Motley crews highlighted by one or two stars: be it Piazza and Alfonzo in the late 90s, Piazza and Cameron in the early 2000s, Delgado and Beltran in the mid-2000s and Wright and Reyes near the end of the decade. This time around, Rivera was the only one of the Yankee core four to see action. Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis, and Teixeira all were rehabbing from injury.
Yes, the Yankees fielded four projected starters from spring training in their lineups this past week. But they've handled the rest of the American league with the role players like Lyle Overbay and Jayson Nix. Yes, it may have been unrealistic to maintain that pace with the current lineup. But they are the Yankees nonetheless, and a team that was statistically inferior in almost every offensive and pitching category defeated them.
In the aftermath of this Subway series, Yankee fans derisively tell their friends wearing blue and orange that "This is your World Series" and "Enjoy watching football while we're in the playoffs in October." While that may yet happen, that doesn't diminish the meaning of this sweep to Mets fans and the place that it will hold in New York baseball history. However, in the grand scheme of things this may well become a novelty, a four game-series with no bearing on how both clubs finish this year. This series would mean a whole lot more to the Mets players if it became the turning point in the 2013 campaign-- the beginning of winning on a consistent basis.
The numbers suggest a regression to the mean and with no dominant team in the AL East, it's very likely this veteran Yankee team will again make the playoffs. Projecting the current offensive and pitching numbers of this Mets team forward, they should finish in 4th place in the division and in the bottom five of the league. The Mets may come back to Earth on this road trip and find themselves 10-15 games under .500 again. This may well be the apogee of a 5th consecutive losing season. It probably will be.
But who in their right mind predicted that the Mets would sweep the Yankees this week? Sometimes performance on the field isn't dictated by matchups or stats, but by belief. For the Mets and their fans, sometimes, ya just gotta believe.
Julian Atienza is a beat reporter covering the Mets and Nets for WFUV Sports.