For what it's worth, I've never been much of a fan of Interleague Play, let alone six absurdly hyped-up regular season games against a severely mismanaged crosstown National League baseball club that solely exist to help the Daily News and the Post sell newspapers.
The Mayor's Challenge exhibitions in 1992 were one thing (I actually remember attending one of these two games as an 11-year-old, in which Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens hit at least one home run if not two -- unfortunately it's surprisingly difficult to find information about this memorable set of exhibition games, otherwise I'd provide a link to a boxscore), but pitting the Yankees against the Mets (or any other National league club for the matter) in games that count in the standings is just ill-conceived. Unfortunately Interleague Play will never go away because it makes too much money for the league. Unless baseball instituted wholesale divisional realignment and/or the National League finally adopted the Designated Hitter, I just don't see the point in being forced to watch my pitchers bat.
Getting on to the games, tonight's contest features a bizarre match-up as Javier Vazquez (8.01 ERA; 6.46 FIP; 4.92 xFIP) looks to continue to improve on his last outing -- a quality start vs. Detroit that only resulted in a loss because the Yankee offense couldn't be bothered to score any runs -- against Hisanori Takahashi (3.12 ERA; 2.67 FIP; 3.48 xFIP), who is making his Major League debut. According to Yankees.com, "Takahashi gets the start in lieu of Jon Niese, who aggravated his right hamstring last Sunday. Predominantly a starting pitcher over nine seasons in Japan, Takahashi was 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 15 appearances out of the bullpen for the Mets, four of them lasting at least three innings. Still, Takahashi is not stretched out as a starter and will be limited to roughly 85 pitches Friday night."
Great. So basically the Yankees will either go to town on the rookie hurler or completely get shut down since they've never seen him before. Given Home Run Javy's National League success, Citi Field's spacious confines and the Mets' general ineptitude, I like the Yanks in this one.
On Saturday it'll be Phil Hughes (2.25 ERA; 3.09 FIP; 3.76 xFIP) vs. Mike Pelfrey (3.02 ERA; 3.65 FIP; 4.09 xFIP), which may be the most intriguing duel of the weekend. Pelfrey began the season on absolute fire through his first five outings before coming a bit down to earth; while Hughes started the year perhaps on even greater fire, stringing together six straight starts of two earned runs or less before getting a bit beat up by the Sox this past Monday. Still, both youngsters have pitched extremely well this season, finally starting to realize the potential that has been discussed for years. This one could really go either way, and may come down to the bullpens. If so, the Mets probably steal a game here.
And in the ESPN Sunday Night Marathon Heartbreaker, we have a battle of aces, as CC Sabathia (3.43 ERA; 4.44 FIP; 4.00 xFIP) takes on Johan Santana (3.72 ERA; 3.67 FIP; 4.11 xFIP). Though Johan has felt a little less untouchable since leaving the Twins for whatever reason (probably due to that nine-earned-run shellacking last June), he's still held the Yanks to a .259/.325/.386 line over 11 career starts. As great as Santana is, I like our horse a tad better, and I expect the Yanks to find a way to get to Santana while Sabathia handles the Mets' lineup.
Here's how the Yanks have fared against the Mets historically:
Apparently they only played three games against each other in the first two years of Interleague Play. Since the series expanded to six games, the Mets have beaten the Yankees in the season series twice, in 2004 and 2008. Though the Yanks went 5-1 vs. the Amazins last year, that record should really be 4-2 were it not for the Luis Castillo game, which coincidentally was the only Yankee-Met game I've ever attended.
Other random Yankee-Met memories that stick out to me over the years include Tyler Clippard making his first career start on national television and picking up a big win; Alex Rodriguez hitting a grand slam and three-run homer in a game that took place during the July 4th holiday weekend in 2006 while a bunch of us were hanging out at an awesome rooftop party and constantly checking our phones for updates; that miserable 2004 sweep at Shea which came directly after the Yanks' emotional sweep of the Red Sox featuring Derek Jeter's nosedive into the stands; and Roger Clemens being an insane jackass with Mike Piazza.
Here are the two teams' offense and pitching numbers:
On paper this isn't particularly close. The Yankee offense continues to rake despite the team's depth being blown to smithereens this month. And even with the Yankees' wretched pitching performances this week (40 runs surrendered over the past five games!) the team is still near the top of the league in BAA, WHIP and ERA, although their component stats are trending downward.
However, that's nothing compared to the Mets, who not only seem to be having a good deal of trouble keeping men off base (1.49 WHIP), but are basically fielding a team of nine Otis Nixons. (I'm not even really sure how to react to a .315 team wOBA). The Mets' NL-worst 4.54 BB/9 combined with the Yankees' AL-leading .365 OBP seems like a recipe for disaster for the Metropolitans.
However, as we all know the games are most certainly not played on paper. If the Yanks were at full strength I'd feel more than comfortable making a two out of three prediction in the Yanks' favor. And really, even with the injuries, I still feel as though the Yankees should be taking two of three from the Mets -- who just aren't a very good baseball team this year, as evidenced by the stats I just presented -- especially with their two best pitchers toeing the hill in the last two games.
Of course, given the absolutely disgusting brand of baseball the Yankees have been playing this week combined with the fact that (a) the Yankees' bottom half of the lineup as presently constituted would make most National League teams blush, (b) the Mets always play the Yankees tough and (c) we'll be in a National League ballpark it certainly wouldn't shock me to see the Mets win the series this weekend.
For a look at how the opposition views us, be sure to check in on our friends over at Amazin' Avenue.
For previous Yankeeist series previews, please see the following:
Yankees vs. Rays in the unbalanced schedule era [May 19, 2010]
Yankees vs. Twins in the unbalanced schedule era [May 14, 2010]
Yankees vs. Tigers in the unbalanced schedule era [May 10, 2010]
Series Preview: Yankees at Red Sox II [May 7, 2010]
Yankees vs. White Sox in the unbalanced schedule era [April 30, 2010]
Yankees vs. Orioles in the unbalanced schedule era [April 27, 2010]
How the Yankees have fared against the Red Sox at home since 2003 [April 2, 2010]
How the Yankees have fared at Fenway Park since 2003 [April 1, 2010]